100th Anniversary Poem: Child of Saturday - Rob Taylor


Kwame

Son of Nkroful,
son of the slave forts
and football in the fields before them.
Son of the schoolhouse,
of dusty Axim streets,
of cannons pointing all directions,
towards the sea
towards the village.

Kwame
the things that are done


A native son crosses the Atlantic
to a land deemed more palatable
for conquest, for the knowledge
you pull from University stacks
and place aside the histories of a people
whose land has already vanished,
who whisper from beneath the pavement
to go.

Kwame
the things that are done
in your name –


Slathered across the newspaper headlines,
this child of Saturday, son of Nkroful
a criminal, captive -
the walls of Ussher fort
a slave galley, a smallpox blanket
wrapped around your throat.
You wait, as you have been taught,
as you have practiced,
while children play in Axim’s fields
and cannons rust slowly on their mounts.

Kwame
the things that are done
in your name –
I mean, the things that are undone


Your people lift you up, out,
proclaim the land theirs,
its direction yours –
this child of Saturday,
this son of the schoolhouse,
you do not turn to address your people
but instead instruct the iron men on
how to bend without bursting.
You teach them how to walk again, to run –
you show them where to go.

Kwame
the things that are done
in your name –
I mean, the things that are undone
behind the flimsy façade of your name


You tore into the earth, it’s true,
and it trembled, betrayed,
yet understanding ‘what must be done.’
Helicopters chattered, gunships
patrolled the shores.
Child of Saturday, when you left
that last time, did you know?

Kwame
the things that are done
in your name –


They buried your body in Guinea,
the son of the slave forts.

I mean, the things that are undone

They returned your body to Nkroful,
the son of the schoolhouse.

behind the flimsy façade of your name

They trucked your body to the Capital
and placed it beneath a monument of stone.

Son of the slave forts,
son of the schoolhouse,
child of Saturday,
they’ve buried your body in a fortress
and stand behind its minarets,
cannons pointing all directions –
children below, bouncing victory and defeat
in black and white off their feet and foreheads
back and forth across the sprawling pitch.




Italicized lines are modified from the poem "Borrowed Airs" by Kobena Eyi Acquah. Read more poems on Nkrumah, from our "Nkrumah Series" of July 2008, here.

15 comments:

ls said...

What? No 5 questions?

Rob Taylor said...

Ha! I sometimes think that nobody reads those. It's good to know someone is interested.

For this poem, I wanted the focus to stay on Nkrumah (it's his 100th, after all). But five questions will be back soon, have no fear!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I love this...interesting poem. I like the use of the refrain here, especially switching between done and undone. It all makes a lot of sense

Prince Kwasi Mensah said...

A fitting tribute to a giant of Pan-Africanism by a great poet. Kwame Nkrumah was the epitome of what can be lost if we do not take our time to appreciate greatness. The tragedy of Nkrumah is almost Shakespearean; an ambitious and effective leader is upstaged by the volatility of the people he wants to save. Think Coriolanus.

In Kwame Nkrumah, I find the truth in the proverb, 'A prophet is not treasured in his hometown'. Time will only reveal the potential we had as a country, and continent for that matter, with this forward-thinking genius. He was a man of the people, a great believer in egality, a passionate spokesman for the break-down of man-made barriers.

In the end, he died away from his beloved homeland, a victim of Cold War politics. May his 100th birthday inspire more people to be as driven, ambitious, passionate and unrelenting as he was. Ghana should utilize what her sons and daughters have to offer. If we do not change the way we treat the pioneers among us, we will only find their value after they are dead and gone.

Darko Antwi said...

INTERESTING

I have always considered poems about people, events and places as the difficult creations in the manufacture of verses - because they pose a combined attempt on the familiar and spells. Thus, a poet can have all the facts at hand, yet he will need to add magic to knowlege - just to prove the artistic worth of his subject. In that sense, Rob has nailed it!

Putting emphasis on verses that are written about people, I would say that it stands-out (of the afore-mentioned three) as the most humpy of all yokes for poets to carry on their fingertips - especially if it is the shape of a political figure on the script.

With all my fears and cares aside, I just can't fathom how Rob managed to do it in this clever way.

Happy 100.

ls said...

I read everything. It's a good way to know how the poet thinks, especially what was going through his/her mind while writing.
That said, I like the answering back approach this poem takes.

Prince I'm fascinated by your comparing KN with Coriolanus. As I remember, Coriolanus did not show any great respect to the plebs. KN increasingly moved Ghana towards something of a totalitarian state.

He gave himself the title 'Osagyefo' commisioning and erecting statues of himself. JB Danquah, died in prison. He fell because of his own flaws. Remember too that many people including JB Danquah, died in Nkrumah's jails.

I am no historian but I believe just as KN was the first black president of the continent, he was also its first modern tyrant. Later he was overthrown by the very first coup d' etat. In short he set in motion a trend which continues today.

100 yrs is long enough for us to acknowledge the fact that nothing, not the roads, not the harbours, not even the overhaul of the education system and everything else he did for us, justified the way he treated his own people.

Enough of the gripe, blame that port and cheddar I just had.

Cheers

Darko Antwi said...

WELL-TAYLORED TO SUIT KWAME

Of all Rob's poems about Ghana, I rate '100th Anniversary..' as the most intriguing - replacing the fascinating 'Makola Market', which I stumbled upon and fell in love with.

What makes this pro-Nkrumah poem so unique is the added special effects. And I deem it a precedence that should be copied to camouflage the weaknesses of the heroes we present in our poems - but not deny their flaws necessarily.

I will say again that Rob has been clever or swift in this poem - such that his praise has not gone extreme to portray a larger-than-life image of Ghana's premier. It is rather cunning, without the weeds of flattery.

Darko Antwi said...

Correction pls.

last line of my 2nd paragraph should have been written as: 'but not to deny their flaws neccesarily'

ls said...

Darko Antwi, I don't believe this poem is pro Nkrumah in any way (but only the poet can answer that).

I think what's brilliant about this is its taking Kobena Eyi Acquah's poem as a starting point.

The poem implicates itself, and by extension, all of us, in that very thing it critiques - the extent to which we all use KN's name for anything and everything.

Gameli Magnus Adzaho said...

Nkrumah is a true visionary. Good job there, Rob for aptly capturing his persona.

I've been exploring the topic of what he would do if he were still alive. Here's the link to my post: http://gamelmag.blogspot.com/2009/09/what-would-be-nkrumahs-aspiration-for.html

Darko Antwi said...

YOU'RE RIGHT, L.S

L.S, I used the prefix 'Pro' in its basic sense. So I meant: a poem that has been written for or about KN = Pro-KN.

Without even going into the poet's mind, I knew it's not a poem that is geared towards making any endorsement or campaign in defence of KN. As good an observant Rob has been, in this poem too, he is only reporting 'the things that are done & undone behind the flimsy facade' of KN's name.

The poem itself stands on a border between several images of KN: his deeds, his despair, his tragic end, his memorial etc.

P.S
I'm now thinking about the enstoolment of Rob Taylor as the Nkosoohene of Ghanaian Poetry. Who seconds?

ls said...

Darko Antwi,

You did make an earlier point about abt the problems inherent when writing abt real people, and this is only one of them. We all come to KN's legacy with diff. viewpoints. That said, I'm only expressing an opinion.

May be next time we'll stick to tone, imagery, metre etc.

Cheers

Darko Antwi said...

Well-said, L.S
Cheers.

Rob Taylor said...

Having this poem "stand on a border between several images of KN" is much of what I was hoping to accomplish. Thank you, Darko, for this comment, and to you and LS and all the other commentors for your keen readings!

Anonymous said...

Man, really want to know how can you be that smart, lol...great read, thanks.