Poetry by David Agyei-Yeboah
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me
You and I are not so different
We house crimson streams and brittle matter
Yet you choose to tear me apart every waking minute.
Your envy blindfolds you to our shared humanity
You plot to siphon blood and eat flesh
While I keep buying you presents to make life comfortable
A wad of cash for your grandmother’s funeral
And lots of palm wine to down,
O for you love your clandestine meetings with old boys.
A river is vomiting snakes
They croon songs of abuse
Tongues wagging, ballooned with hatred,
Now raining down chainsaws and cutlasses.
You wormed your way through the hut of my heart
After seeding the river,
that now bends and writhes,
Mother serpent joining in on her offspring at the opening of my hut
fangs bared to bite off flesh and perforate lungs
Suffocate brains, wipe away times you and I sat on recliners,
laughing away at the transience of time,
times you and I played heartily on the sands of Akwamufie
and scooped up palmfuls of water at the rivulets bordering Oppong Kyekyeku’s hut
after games of Oware and Chaskele.
Oh brother, why feel the need to constantly tear me down
When all I’ve been is good to you?
When all we had were meals of blest communion since infancy?
The good old days still play out before me like in a cinema,
When twine could never entangle
Our brotherhood, closely knit at every angle
When the sun’s brilliant heat beat on my mango flesh in our teens
And you mocked at me
Dubbed me alien, illegitimate
All because I didn’t radiate like the woody branches of the Forbidden Forest
I gave you 4 calabashes when you turned 15
And you cracked two on my 16th
Said something about how 4 was more than a crowd
And that man or beast would never break our union.
Why did you let the dark have the final say?
Now we’re 30
And you boil with envy at my trinkets
Your failures in life birthing a most adorned ingrate seeking ruin for your fellow man.
Your envy has quickly morphed into full bodied acrimony,
Hateful eyes now staining the earth a sallow yellow, pitted from its jaundiced glare
Another tale of friendship soured…
Deep in the hollow
He loomed, stealth as the night,
Dove with the cunning of fox
To fish me out of the market.
Said something about tutoring
I was best at Sunday school
Winding staircase, phalluses of Hellenistic men, tender strokes of Picasso
His landlady was definitely pagan.
Doorknob creaked open as I entered his room
He wrenched my shorts off
Holding me down like the handlebars of scooters
What is happening Pastor?
I was only 7.
It’s going to be okay
It’s going to be okay
I love you
I love you
Teetering closer to my crotch,
Palms fastened onto my lips,
A giant boulder blocking my tomb of questioning.
Then he stuck out a tongue
Face darkened with desire
Teeth rolled back into gums
Eyes angled for a bull’s eye.
The wind overcooking, from the heat of his labored breath.
The globe seemed flat, the room swelled, his lips were time bombs,
He licked, he pounced, he won.
Now every Christmas eve, my memory bank serves me notice,
and that hungry face of a charlatan is a painting that has drowned me in debt.
On that day, December 24th,
Apoka, or whatever he calls himself nowadays, stole a heart of flesh and ground it to chalk.
Set a vinyl playing to the tune of fireflies drowning in a lake of desire.
While he pirouetted in that tiny bedroom of his after he devoured brunch.
I still remember
Sawdust everywhere, musty scent of sweat, stinking fish,
broken beer bottles, butcher knives,
Mottled flesh, hair everywhere, balloon belly, persistent eyes
Slicing up my heart in slivers as I stared at God
I still see Apoka every Christmas eve
Crescent smile widening as it gobbles up my world
And spits me out like thick crocodile phlegm.
Each time I amble into bathrooms,
It’s his musk I inhale
Every time a girl winks at me
I see his hands, never ending, perambulating, unfurling,
Ever ready to eat from where he never sowed.
Do the sands of time ever heal?
Will I ever forget just how much Pastor Apoka ruined me?
There are two birds in a cage, one blue, one black, hidden in the womb of night. There’s a flicker that softly bathes the room as the black bird screeches forcefully, out of the cage. Across the walls, a brilliant tapestry vomits a hue of auburn to combat the darkness that’s frowned ferociously, wounded by the glimmer above. The blue bird perched atop metal continues to stare out into space, the shackling a fog in its mind, though the cage crumbles under slicing pangs of liberty. The black bird returns, fluttering around the entrance. Its feathers begin to expel gold dust, like a pregnant mother in labor, and it calls out to the lone bird, whose eyes flit erratically, darting from entrance to metal wall, garden of poop below to sky of wood above. It gives up, hovering away, while the lone bird slumps in its cage, death emanating from its defeated gait, in a cage wincing from the cries of new-born baby birds wiggling out the entrance, tumbling as they creep out, yet picking themselves up, freedom a glide away. Blue bird begins to hear music tearing through the air. The free bird is singing, new-born birds providing backup vocals. The lyrics cut deep. At certain points in life, your healing and freedom is your responsibility, your responsibility, your responsibility; magic can’t save you, save you, save you, save you. All you’ve got is yourself, little bird. So take a step toward healing, healing, healing.
David Agyei-Yeboah is a young creative from Accra, Ghana that believes in expressing gutting raw energy onto plain paper. He believes art is sacred and should be expressed with the utmost care, beauty and craftsmanship. He has work published/forthcoming on GUEST, Ethel Journal of Writing and Art, Tampered Press, Icefloe Press, Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature, African Writer Magazine, The Kalahari Review, Journal of the Writers Project of Ghana (JWPG) & Contemporary Ghanaian Writers Series (CGWS). An alumnus of the Tampered Press Poetry Workshop with Ladan Osman and Koleka Putuma, he was long-listed for The Totally Free Best of the Bottom Drawer Global Writing Prize 2021.
Originally published April 4, 2023