Samuela's Fufu - Laban Hill

- For Rose Blankson-Austin

Maame Rose knows. She cuts
cassava in block chunks.
Splits plantains, opens
dark veins concealed
beneath pale, sweet meat.

Maame Rose does it this way, stokes a fire
with coal, tosses in skins.
They curl in on themselves like small hands
closing into fists. The iron pot sits there
like a hungry chief, swallowing

cassava and plantains into boil. Listen
to Maame Rose. She will not steer
you wrong. She says pound
that cooked fruit in a dahuoma mortar,
hard as your ancestor's teeth.

Yes, the pestle is heavy, she says. Take this Essan trunk,
thick as your arm, tall as your eyes.
Look at the way it mushrooms out
at its base, soft and pliant
like a good brush, like your tongue.

It must be that way, Maame Rose says, so it works
the fruit as you pound and pound.
You should smile because it is hard.
Everyone tires, she says, but it is the ones
who pound cassava and plantain

until their hearts ache, until they
have forgotten their children's names,
until their ghosts show them
how to hold the stick with two hands.
Do it this way, Maame Rose says,

and you see she is right and pound
that cassava, that plantain until the tough fiber
is broken down, until the whole village
has pushed you up that coconut tree
and you never meet your grandmother' s corpse.
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