- for Kwame Nkrumah
He thought he could squeeze cocoa pods
And turn them into gold,
Plentiful in his land, he knew
What was really needed,
Roads and places taking people to
Hospitals and schools, around puddles
Massed behind dams.
They handed him the Kente cloth,
He wore it with his pocket watch,
It was a new hour,
For the old Dark Continent to finally shine.
The ones who brought him to the top,
He did not forget, instead he spread his love
And took all the people in,
His verandah boys faded
Under his dreams: shadows of pyramids,
Rails passing from Cape to Cairo
Never stopping for duties or passports,
And the lion cubs of Judah, grown strong
Flowing down the Congo past
A statue standing tall,
Its finger pointed
Up at the sky, to the sun,
Shining like a black star.
A singe of jealousy spread,
Igniting a scent of betrayal
That hung in the tropical air
When he went abroad to dine
With Kaiser and the Kommissar,
Finding his Cleopatra in the Suez.
Upon his return there was anger
At the gash driven through the heartland,
Filled with water, designed
To purge the Volta of volts, anger
Rising in laughter on the porches in Accra,
Inside the buses at Kumasi,
Between bites of bitter cassava.
The moon was rising once again,
The eclipse of the black star began.
In the darkness came the police,
Without warrant, preventive detention
On their lips, blind loyalty filling their stomachs.
In the darkness prices fell and the crops
Were left to rot, or else taken away
To strange markets dominated by Creole,
In the darkness millions stood in circles
Falling on top of one another,
Destined to buy a pack of sugar.
In those lines was his end,
They were too fine to be fought
Too loose to be built upon,
They were coiled at his feet,
Lines of people leading nowhere, like
Lines shuffling through the prison yards
Everyone, waiting for a moment on the telephone
To reach a wire to the outside
And let everyone know they had not vanished.
His beginning had been in bars,
In the shadows they cast upon his face
And on the floor when he paced,
Digging a hole into the soft soil
Of the Gold Coast, thinking
About a new name for himself
That he would take and place atop his head,
Should he ever be allowed to hold
The keys, that grew rusty in those days
Squeezed between sweaty white fingers.
"Osagyefo" is part two of our four-part series of poems on Kwame Nkrumah. Our third installment will be posted next week.