Accra - Prince Mensah

My heavy baggage is carried
by a teen kayayo, [i]
aged by her adventures in big city,
severed from family,
lost in a vortex,
spurned by simple economics.
She carries my possession like a cross on her back,
smiling for finding funds to survive.

My contemplation is tainted by a worried
mother yelling for lost child,
pushing through crowd and din,
oblivious to complaints.

Pickpockets lookout for Johnny-Just-Comes,
naïve business folk from the hinterland.
The streets are mean with survival dressed
as con men and lotto prophets.

Frustrated market women rain
insults, vulgar and plenty,
as smells of fried fish and kenkey [ii]
soothe nostalgic nostrils.

My ears are jarred by honks of tro-tro vans, [iii]
impatient drivers in charge.
Their egotistical mates collecting
fares from exhausted passengers.
Man and vehicle combat for space
in this Tetris game.

The sun shines with intense fury
on sweaty brows and faded hope.
Beauty hides behind hard labor,
confidence is lost with missing teeth.
Dreams are what we really own -
we expect them to come true.

I pause to sip iced kenkey drink
with some bofrot. [iv]
Some kid watches me, wishing he was me.
His hungry eyes analyze the motions
of my happy mouth.
His predicament steals my appetite -
I share my lunch with him.

I walk the beach by Independence Square,
wondering about our dependence
on those from whom we gained freedom
during our struggles in the fifties.
I stand before Nkrumah's mausoleum,
venue of the old Polo grounds.
His old words are drowned in the new cries
of a deceived continent.

I walk this Accra breeze from grey sea
with waves of tears that fall
on the shores of our motherland
duped by the greed of her children.
We are rich by all standards, by nature,
wisdom, intelligence and people.

Flashy buildings house expatriate firms
which overlook native commerce
conducted by gutter and lungu-lungu, [v]
the halitosis of corruption.
But conditions do not coerce attitude.

Smiles are easy to form on weary faces -
Fama Nyame, Fama Nyame, Fama Nyame! [vi]
We shrug away our troubles and move on.

[i] A porter
[ii] Corn meal
[iii] Local transportation, normally dilapidated vans
[iv] Local version of an American doughnut
[v] Hausa word for alleys
[vi] "Give it to God, Give it to God, Give it to God!"


Anonymous said...

Bill Chapman,

I went to and have become a fan. I have it in my favorites now. That's a really cool linguistic project they have there.

Edith, it is nice to hear from you. How's school coming? I know you got those academics under lock. You go girl!

'Accra' is in a video version on YouTube. Put into the search space the phrase 'Poet Prince Mensah Accra'. You will also see other poems I have recorded in video format.


Anonymous said...

Ay man that is a great poem. You are the man. I love the line- 'But conditions do not coerce attitude'- think of Zimbabwe. Mugabe has run the country into the ground yet people still love the guy. I think Christianity is both Africa's worst(in that it keeps the peace,makes people passive) and best friend (in that it keeps the peace). Love the introduction of non-english language. I feel your point on the marginalization of African language, its some real bullshit and we stay blinded to the fact as every African wants to be like a freaking westerner. I feel we as Africans in general have not found ourselves and our place in the world and thus a subject to puppetry by the west. It is not the fault of the west (at least not now, some 40+ yrs later). It is our responsibility to represent Africa as it is with all its shortcoming and glories. Keep it up chale.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prince Mensah:

Congradulations on Accra! It demonstrates the maturity of epic poetry with a leadership aesthetic. As poets, we often need to proclaim our deepest thoughts. The challenge is how to do so without intimidating the masses. Because we find ourselves constantly evolving content to fit the poetics of form, many poets choose the tedium of perfect structure over the courage of original or otherwise clever formulas of making genius appear natural. This creates a sense of wonder in the reader's psyche. Is not a poet's followers those who make critics ask how a poet either succeeds or fails at saying something relevant in a succinct manner? Leadership in poetry is accomplished by making genius accessible to the masses.

John Patrick Acevedo

Anonymous said...

Dear Prince Mensah my poet,
there you go again. I wonder where you get all that inspirations from? 'Accra','Accra','Accra' when will our leaders realize the harm they are causing to us rather than their supposed truths and unchanging lies. whereas we the poets are portraying truth, our African leaders are the complete opposite of us. God help us!