Poetry by Jay Kophy


in January 2002. the national reconciliation commission
was formed to ask us to remember what our blood won’t let us

                about the bodies that men walked
                                         on to grow into gods

over here the sea is anything that streams down
from the eyes of grieving mothers or fathers or sisters

or brothers who are buried next to all the gold
they want to harvest to exchange for food

how do we tell the children that the yellow in our flag
doesn’t stand for the color of the sun

or what you get from pouring blood on leaves


is it blood or bled? I do not know which to use
when I’m asked to talk about my country—

which asks that it be called without knowing
the history of its name

how many questions have we asked the sky
in our prayers. only to be answered in silence

on 6th February 2019. another commission was formed
after bullets were found at a polling center

    this time
                             to ask us forget what our blood makes us remember



Consider this

that a boy has to pour his name
back into his wounded mouth

before he can remember who he is
without having to wear the skin of his fathers

who convert blood into ghosts like
the dead              & the dead

I’m told        always walk backwards
because they only live in the past

I come from a long line of men
who say      I love you      from stitched mouths

bending bodies into the shape of things
that spell out        soft     in sign language

which is to say

I know no other way to celebrate the things

that bring me joy than to eat their memories
to turn laughter into a hunger

what is another metaphor for doubt other than faith

after a few minutes of being reminded
what it means to be loved

I ask my lover      what can kill us
she says       everything we trust


Jay Kophy is a Ghanaian poet and writer. His poems are forthcoming and have been featured in literary magazines such as Glass Poetry, Shore Poetry, Kalahari Review, Hellebore, Tampered Press and many others. He is the 2020 winner of the Samira Bawumia Literature Prize in poetry. He’s also curator of anthologies to grow in two bodies and How to Write My Country’s Name, two collections of poems and short stories from emerging young African writers. You can find him on Twitter @jay_kophy.

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