Keta Stories - Prince Mensah

I remember meditating
on Mawu’s [i] handiworks;
I was a boy entranced, doting
over sands and old rocks,
over scenes of this lagoon
in radiance of full moon.

Oh, how these waves steal the land
from us. These beautiful waves,
thieves that defy defined lines
between ocean and earth.
Strange to see sea pass Mawu’s hand,
forcing us to become slaves
to campaigns to save land lines;
for Keta’s life or death.

Xevikpodzi, where the songs
of a thousand birds merge
amidst sounds of crashing waves:
Beauty for which my heart longs,
my mind enshrines the pledge
to save Keta from these waves.

Fort Prinzenstein and memories
of greedy merchants
wooing the land with cheap dowry,
feeding all their wants,
leeching a welcoming culture,
turning brother against brother;
these rapists caused rapture
of slavery and slaughter.

These are things Daada [ii] told me,
also things I shared with Mawunyega
as we ate aboloo [iii] with keta
school boys [iv]. School boys who loved
to know how this used to be;
we walked the shore with no fear of danger,
The lagoon is our friend; we enter
with respect, we are beloved.

We loved the truant trips to old town
where we remembered no more
six painful lashes meted out upon
our buttocks from Teacher Akator’s
kerosene-soaked cane
Mawunyega was smart, I was clown
so our humiliation bore
unending laughter from mates and deep scorn
from all disciplinarian-tutors
who thought we were vain.
Vain to glorify fetride [v],
akpele [vi] and stringing okro soup
in our essays for mid-term.
I wrote about food Daada made,
she always made the best light goat soup
that lingered all through the term.

Hogbetsotso-la. Tro-tro. Bone-shakers.
Face to face. The driver’s voice
contained halitosis emanating
from last-night’s tilapia dinner.
We wait for relatives who bring crackers,
news from Anloga. Rejoice,
local gossip, eagerly commenting
on the festival. Asaana, [vii]
as she pauses to sing ancient chants,
about frenzied girls, bouncing bosoms,
sweating dancers, the Agbadza; [viii]
hands in ninety degree posture,
swinging back and forth with frenzy.
Our eyes beamed with youthful interest.

Davio! Davio! Davio! [ix]
The old man shouted, ‘Megbona?!’ [x]
We were way into the sea,
no warning could stop us
We were trouble for Leo,
‘Megbona?!, ‘Megbona?! ‘Megbona?!
He could not understand why
the young wanted to die.

From the sea, we saw a crowd
deal with a fiafito: [xi]
They rained slaps and lashing
on his hapless self, kicking
his groin as he screamed, ‘Ao!
We had had images of owners
chasing thieves who jumped
into the arms of the sea for safety.

I reminisce my love affair with corn,
without her, I am forlorn.
Nyeblo [xii], the truth must be told;
the sea’s thievery is from of old.
I am too young to tell how it begun,
too old to forget how it stung
to lose precious pieces of Keta
as the forces of nature enter.

We have grown, we are now fully-matured men.
Life plays like a set of congas.
We live by fruits of the pen,
by experiencing, exploring
sources of present peace.
We loved choral songs of weary fishermen,
the hail of patient fish-mongers.
We were the little children
who stole fresh fish, disappearing
behind coconut trees.

[i] Ewe name for ‘God’
[ii] Ewe endearing word for ‘parent’
[iii] It is a baked corn cake
[iv] Smoked fish in the Volta Region
[v] Food made out of corn dough
[vi] Another variation of food made out of corn dough
[vii] Local drink made out of corn
[viii] Trademark Ewe dance
[ix] Ewe word for children
[x] Ewe word for ‘why?’
[xi] Ewe name for a thief
[xii] Ewe word for brother

"Keta Stories" is part three of our five-part series of poems on Keta. Further installments will be posted weekly throughout January.
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