This Little Love We Carry In Our Hearts

Posted: December 2, 2014 in Essays
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credit: Glenna Gordon

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Credit: Glenna Gordon

There is this love, of mine, which is a kind of petrichor. I know her because she is real and innate. She rips off a part of my esophagus like a craving. She is photographic. She is an act of memoriam, an invisible epitaph. This little love, I carry in my heart, is guided by my conscience and with eerie strength that is almost mimicking how a pauper keeps currency in her pocket.
James Estrin’s Bringing the Nigerian Schoolgirls Into View is like that little love. Glenna Gordon’s photography that that essay lives off is a necessary attempt to rescue memory from being a graveyard. The hurried significance is to break the cycle of legacies of long absences. They are not report cards. They are not hand-outs. They are more than what the failure of the intelligences of language projects. Emmanuel Iduma puts it better – . . . photograph’s essence is to ratify what it represents; no writing can give that certainty, because it is the misfortune of language not to be able to authenticate itself- in Trans-wander.
Captivity by Teju Cole fails in a way that Glenna Gordon’s photography strives for success. It is not a failure of Teju per se; it is that of language. To think of it more correctly, Captivity is those photographs’ soundtrack. Captivity is a dramatic fiction inspired by true events. Fiction breaks Hooke’s Law; photography consolidates it. When Teju’s imagination is exhausted, Gordon’s photograph extends that narrative. It is this that thickens the love affair of these two works.
Gordon’s meta-poetic metonymy construction is both ghostly and actual. It is about presence-in-absence. It is about showing without telling. In its vagueness is what your imagination should fill.
I identify with the irony and contradiction of the photographs. The portrait of Hauwa Mutah’s dress attracts me for selfish reasons. The text besides it explains that she aspires to be a biochemist but her favorite subjects are Geography and English. It reminds me of my biochemistry degree and my life, and what I am doing with it. It dawns on me that I could have been her and she could have been me. It is like that.
Douglas Yakubu’s journal is a love story. I like her courage to record her story. It is a communication between her and a boy who says, she ‘’ is the remote control of his life.’’ She is 16 years old.
These photographs reveal to us the humanity behind the ‘’numbers’’ or ‘’Chibok girls.’’ It is a call. The photographer had to find a way to show us their humanity. The correct answer lies in what Gordon’s genius is – metonymy. Those artifacts breathe into the spaces. We feel the abducted girls’ presence. Their love. Their humanity. Their lives. And beauty.
Wole Soyinka asks as a premise for From Chibok With Love – What do religionists really want? I imagine Soyinka’s interrogation is about love for religion, in certain regards, the love of (religious) extremism.
It is that same love that should compel us to interrogate the social construct labeled religion. It is not enough to accept intent or (in) action as sitting on the lap of religion or by what the perpetrators call it.

14th, December, 1908.
Leo Tolstoy wrote a letter to Tarak Nath Das. It was a response to two letters sent by Das, seeking Tolstoy’s support for India’s independence. In Letter To A Hindu, Tolstoy writes about his belief in the natural law of love as espoused in the world’s religion. He advocated for peaceful, non-violent protests and strikes. He also spoke against pseudo-religion and pseudo-science.
To answer Soyinka, the good professor, religionists want what humanists want. True religion is peace. Is love. Is tolerant. We must be bold to speak against pseudo-religion. Pseudo-science. And all that that is inhumane. We must interrogate religion; test it like any philosophy or ideal. Religion should not be the metaphor for the absurd. Truly, anything that is anti-human does not deserve to exist. This should be our little love to humanity.

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I had by accident met Romeo on a Facebook poetry group some two or so years ago. I had started writing again. I needed a place to belong. I loved poetry. Based on some testimonials, I found myself on the P.O.E.T.S Facebook page. There, I met others, who would be friends, family for life.

romeo

The unthinkable thing happened last week. My boss had assigned a task to me and I was almost late for submission because our unit wi-fi was down. I went to an internet café to go do the submission and when I logged on to Facebook, I saw people write on his wall.

Sometimes, I wish I could ask God why certain things happen. Sometimes, I wish everything about life would make sense and there would not be a need to ask questions. Sometimes, I wish there would be a transparent glass between this life and the other one so that relatives can still meet and talk to one another about times gone, laugh and be happy forever.

I do not know how to write a tribute. This is not a tribute. It is a friend writing about another friend; his thought on the other’s writing.

That night, I read Romeo’s poems. I reflected on his short life. I thought about mine too. I forgot how to write poems. I knew I was just a reader of a poet’s work.

Romeo’s finest work, with little doubt, will be Passing Through. I am not a believer of secular prophet-ship role for the artist when she, in an artistic moment, speaks of death and under somewhat circumstance, she ends up the same way. Death is too universal to be a contrived narrative. Writing about death is the only truth that an artist can speak to life. Truly, it’s a humanistic ideal.

The persona-poet, if I am correct, wonders about the meaning of life. To him, it is a mystery, a journey to nowhere. He writes –

A countless more miles to walk

A journey of no destination

Caught up in silence in its very bulk

My path is shrouded in my own imagination

(Stanza 1)

Stanza 2 is even more profound –

Like a dead flower on a grave
What is my appreciation to the dead
Must I be brave
To escape the luxury of my bed (?)

It’s profundity in the subsequent stanzas challenges my ideal. He seems to know his fate.

I am a traveller just passing through

My words may be heart-cutting but are true

And then, a she-persona is introduced.

There came a she who added to my bane

From there, there are a lot of unnecessary pun elements that distract focus. But the last stanza is the deal. Seemingly, the poet-persona knows the end is in sight. It is the climax of the internal conversation with the she-persona, a lover, most probably.

I couldn’t watch the tears run down her face

The pain in her heart was moving at a snail pace

Because my words to her were true

I was just passing through

I struggle with ideals. I struggle with beliefs. I struggle with religion. This is one that makes me know that I am a human being. I know I, too, will be on the gallows once. The question is ‘’when?’’ And I have also written about death. I am not aware if my interrogation of the theme is a truth to my fate. Either way, destiny will triumph.

I feel Romeo fought. We didn’t talk in his last days. I learnt he passed on battling cancer. I remember the last time we met. I read to him some of my poems. I asked him to come back to writing. With a smile that struck like a painting, he said he would be back soon. And he never did.

Time is not a good friend now. The physical barrier between the spiritual and physicality will be activated this weekend. Unfortunately, I can not be there.

Once, I heard that the only thing that can be used to bury a singer is a song. I offer my words to the poet. Journey well, my brother. Till we meet again.

From Kwabena with love.

Title:  Testament Of The Season

Author:  Mawuli Adzei

Pages:  194

Year Of Publication : 2013

Publisher: Mawuli Adzei

Book Reviewer: Kwabena Agyare Yeboah

Mawuli’s collection challenges the citizenry of the establishment. In 1968 whilst stating his support for Biafra, China Achebe writes, ” It is clear to me that the African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant ” It has become a  DNA imprint that the African writer passes herself as an activist. Even today, when the current generation is not ideology freak, words of  nuclear atomic bomb proportions are traded on social media in defense or otherwise of this writer-spokesmanship role. Granted. This should be the case.  Won’t our narratives be anaemic, pregnanted with perceptions, classism, egoism and flawed by what not makes  one’s shoe big?
Enter, Mawuli. The persona in the collection is just a scribe, a mere clock. It is the reader that is the time-teller.  Segmented into fourteen sections,  the  collection combs history, politics, philosophy, geography, nature, ritual and the human condition which the poet writes, ” are the subjects that feed my Muse.”  Each of the sections begins  with either a prose-poem or quote which somewhat provides  a context for the poems included in those sections. It seems the poet is careful with contexts; he does not want to be misinterpreted. I find it an unnecessary burden in many cases. Primarily, a part  deals with a construction of identity. Subtly, the other disrupts and exposes the artificiality of nations’ borders.  In its claim lies the universality of human condition – humanism.

Testament Of The Seasons received the Valco Trust Fund Meritorious Award for Poetry in 1996 (unpublished category but was published with additions in 2013).   The collection begins with the section, Winds Of Change.  It bears  witness to the Arab Spring. It includes Springtime ( which in itself is a pun on “spring” in Arab Spring. Free Fall is a poem with extended metaphor that is seated deeply in how chiefs are enstooled in Akan societies.  It dramatizes the end to otherwise a beautiful climax. It brings to mind Gaddafi.  The poem ends with this imagery –
  ” And they fell like over-ripe fruit
   They fell, they fell —

    What a  freefall!”

The next section is Nature’s  fury.  The prologue of the section advances  an interesting argument. It seems to suggest that natural disasters are responses  to the hubris to science. It might not be far from the truth.  Research documents Shanghai for example as a polluted city because of industrialization and huge traffic jams.
Kamikaze is a memory of the Nagasaki-Hiroshima  atrocity.
Eternity is about death. Matters Of The Heart is a love poem section. The US inspires two sections; Dreams (which is an allusion to Rev. Martin Luther  King) and Statu(te)s of Liberty.
The construction of identity part has eight sections which includes Land of our Birth,Memories,  Meditations and Eternity, with latter poems as encounter with death. In Memoriam ( I, II, III) poems are personal stories.  II is in memory of  the poet’s mother.
   ” Then she collapsed in my arms
    I held red-hot death in my arms
   I cuddled death in my bosom as the choral wailings rose
   It was 4 am, October 1975

    I can’t stop crying”

It looks like the collection could have have been two books.

If history is fair and kind, then, when memories are cast in the grains of time, it should remember this poet and his offering.

If there is anything that is negative about this book, it should be the quality of printing and illustration. Well, it’s a scream of politics of sprawled publishing industry(?).

Troubled shapes on the maps are proof  of The Testament Of Seasons – of how humans have shaped up history; the beautiful and ugly, hope and distress. In its essence, humanism, morality should be a landscape, nirvana.

Emotions are the canal, bridge that  makes or unmakes humanity. Two of them are progressive; hope and love. 

1.  Hope is the tender that allows us to legally pursue life .

There are times when we cling to hope, not because we don’t know, we can’t do, or even, that we haven’t seen better.

Those are the times when our being may not depend on it. 

–  Aisha Nelson, My Resonse.

2.  Love holds as a root of many.

i find you missing from my gallery of great African smiles
i have come to purchase yours, sun

here’s a cheque of thank you for being beautiful
allow me to be a merchant of honour

– Kwabena Agyare Yeboah, Dedication .

3.  In the middle, what conveys this is language 

I was particularly disturbed because I had read Barthes – in front of a photograph, our consciousness does not necessarily take a path of memory, but the path of certainty, the photograph’s essence is to ratify what it represents; no writing can give that certainty, because it is the misfortune of language not to be able to authenticate itself

–  Emmanuel Iduma, Trans-wander.

4.   But know what to say and where. 

If you go to a funeral with insults, you will be seen off with slaps

–   An Akan Proverb

5. Even death becomes a monument in life.

 They say life is a riddle
and the grave is a metaphor
for an infinite absence

– Rasaq Malik, The Grave 

6. Yet we still search.

Before your eyes

Maybe you hallucinate

Maybe you are on opiates

But this nothing

This gaping nothing

– Amma Konadu,  And Now . . .

7. Keep looking. Everyone is a storyteller. 

It doesn’t matter who hurt you, or broke you down, what matters is who made you smile again.

–  Female Struggles,  @tfemaleissues

 

Note: A re-construction of thoughts in an element of experimental narratives.  I extend what I know or pretend to know , as one that falls within the purview of human knowledge. Thank you to these artists, people for sharing what they know about life.