On this dirty patch
a tree once stood
shedding incense on the infant corn:
its boughs stretched across a heaven
brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors and builders
who cut that tree
planting in its place
A huge senseless cathedral of doom.
– Kofi Awoonor (13 March 1935 – 21 September 2013) was a Ghanaian poet and author whose work combined the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during decolonization. He started writing under the name George Awoonor-Williams, and was also published as Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor. He taught African literature at the University of Ghana.
Seeiso accepts no cowards;
The children of the family of Mary he rejects:
On hearing, ‘The chief is riding’,
They usually begin to comb their hair,
And I’d hear them ask, ‘Where is the teacher?’
You trust in the father more than in the chief!
There in the battle someone takes fright,
He puts on his trousers back to front,
And the buttons are shining on his buttocks!
Seeiso, make friends of the Christians
But don’t tell the Christians of war,
For of death they’re much afraid:
They’re always being told of it in church!
The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.