Poetry by Sarpong-Osei Asamoah
Our days are Jazz
It’s 28th April, 2020 and it feels like we never left march, and February, and January; three million confirmed cases, 211,065 lost and they say we must mourn our dying now and our dead later. We do this together, from a distance. The Gods are silent. In these bodies of curfewed blood, saying enough is talking too much. I attempt my first poem of the year:
If there’s one thing we do not deserve,
It is Earth, not mercy.
In Ghana, the borders slam shut so hard it breaks. The capital is folded into a thin sheet, folded and locked away. The only part of Accra left is the insides of our rooms. The Nation mourns Accra and Kumasi for three odd weeks, then itself every other day since. But even a mourner must eat and the cracks begin to show in long queues at the Independence Square; a microcosm of us, a theatre of clique? And Ananse wounds the strings with which the puppeteer leashes him. I hear We know how to bring the economy back to life ; we’ve always known what to do, it is the deed that remains undone. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life, and yet Cerebrospinal Meningitis has taken 48 people of the North this year, In 2016, 590 deaths by malaria were recorded among children under five years. Some of us die slowly others die slower; last year four Tarkoradi girls, before them, Ahmed Suale. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life. I continue my poem:
How shall oblivion prepare us for its cenotaph teeth—
Make fire of our brief, brief breath?
From our voices, its silence?
From its beauty, our dust?
Every random cough is a death sentence. The panic is a bandwagon parallel-parked in every driveway, it’s a traffic jam. It is as contagious as the malady; for both we have no cure. How useful is ‘fasting and prayer’ as PPE? They say stay home, stop the spread, and everyday there’s someone to lose or miss.
The only certainty is the question that binds with the heavy metal in our blood falling into stomachs like anchors. I attempt another poem:
The malady; its gilded horns of silent spares, its empty face
and cold breath shall waft through these thin streets while we hold our breaths.
My poem fails, my question doesn’t; Stay home ! Is a kiosk a home?
This new world order means we must grow toward the tenderness of childhood where a boy or girl has only him/herself to play with. This new (ab)norm means we grow toward minimalism, something our planet is fairly far from. This new teacher teaches us the acceptance of love without the familiar bodies that make it possible to hold in our ready hands without it sodden with alcohol-based sanitizers. Thus, I’m beginning to miss hugging and holding hands with friends I have never touched. Most of our relationships have become long distant. The fabric of our lives says ‘ani bre a nsɔ gya’. I attempt a new poem that ends with stay home.
Then, in your introversion, you look around and find companionship in the things not inside you— you find a fine friend; wind no matter how brief, light no matter how wiry, your good old lungs or a wall photographs of your childhood. You find what a brave buddy the
Everyday bird, a window, a blank page, or a blogpost: Jazz , by Tryphena Yeboah can be to you. Here, our writer, Tryphena, finds her unusual companion in the music of Jazz.
The jazz; a normal; Old sound, new meaning. Or joy or hope or courage or inspiration. The jazz, It may save us all yet. My jazz; poetry, a cento:
I wake up slowly.
I do not reach for anything, so I sit in my room,
Jazz floating outside my door, dig my toes into the wood floor as the madness orbits around me.
I hold my head in my hands. Curl my body so tight my knees kiss my head;
A posture of desperation is also a posture of surrender.
The world falls silent one more time,
All the noise is inside of me. Except the jazz.
Sarpong-Osei Asamoah’s work has appeared at WriteGhana.com, in Gumbo Press Magazine, Praxis online Magazine, Lunaris Review, Writers Space Africa Magazine and has been anthologized by the Contemporary Ghanaian Writers Se
Originally published October 10, 2020