Among The Sharps of The Forest - Prince Mensah

- A Dirge for Prof. Kofi Awoonor


Fading through prisms
Of changing phases –
Crying faces in
Places ploughed through by chaos –
This earth, my brother, has become something else
Something that elicits too much consternation

I am on the world’s extreme corner

Mɛ gbɔ na? Mɛ gbɔ na? Mɛ gbɔ na?
Only Mawu can unravel this cataclysm –
Godforsaken people with guns run amok among us –
Modern day Huns who rush at us for no reason
Upsetting us with their disruptive plans –
All at once, all at once

I am on the world’s extreme corner

I am an orphan, suddenly an orphan
Made so by the darkening of father sun
By the reddening of mother moon –
All too soon the sacred forest has become a haunt
Of restless spirits among stoic and sullen trees –
The wind tastes like salty tears
It has become a song of sorrow
Amid a gloom with no accommodation
For uncertainties of tomorrow –
The heart is naked against the storm

If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me


Like unexpected rain, pain has swept through our land –
Death in Nairobi; the subterfuge of fate at Westgate
We go to huts where sometime in yesteryears,
We laughed and cried over mundane matters –
Where we amalgamated struggle and success
And gave them the name, Life
There is no one at the huts, no one
To welcome us when we pass by –
No one to ask us of how our days went –

If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there the sun burns me


The ultimate violation has occurred among us –
I am no longer at ease with my own people
Their emotions are now tools for foreign gods
Their ways have become the ways of concupiscence –
Our trust for one another has been breached by bloodthirstiness
I do not know how I shall fare
Now that the lion has been stirred in his den –
Kpeti is forlorn; Kpeti’s great household is forlorn –
A mist of melancholy has descended upon our land –

Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.


Why do you not return when we call for you?
Why have you left us in the middle of forests unknown?
Why do we hear fading echoes of your footsteps?
The face of the sky is not welcoming –
We do not know whether it is day or night
But revenge shall not satisfy our anger –
We shall go to your favorite places and breathe in the air,
We shall sit where you sat, sing the songs you loved –
As the leaves heave and fall in arms of wind,
As teardrops moisturize our desiccated thoughts

Alas! A snake has bitten me
My right arm is broken,
And the tree on which I lean is fallen.


This world is good at exiling its heroes
And strangler trees flourish in these forests –
Forgive Nyidevu, Kpeti and Kove –
They all stand here with Agosi
Drowning in the agony of your loss
I see black and red – black for unspeakable evil,
Red for courage amid carnage –
Closure and peace are our desiderata, we wonder where
This adamant betrothal to brutality came from,
We wonder why we were not allowed to say goodbye –

While we suffer, and eat sand
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.


The village is filled with wailing
Older men beat their chests and gulp down
Rising urges to cry out against the sun –
The women cannot hold themselves together
The sons are distraught, the daughters are dejected
The house is colored with desolation –
But we will not let the cowards win
We shall face the future with the courage you taught us
We shall live in aluta continua against death
We shall not let you pass away

While we suffer, and eat sand
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences
And strangers walk over our portion.


Mɛ gbɔ na? Mɛ gbɔ na? Mɛ gbɔ na?
Only Mawu can unravel this cataclysm –
Godforsaken people with guns run amok among us –
Modern day Huns who rush at us for no reason
Upsetting us with their disruptive plans –
All at once, all at once

I am on the world’s extreme corner

Fading through prisms
Of changing phases –
Crying faces in
Places ploughed through by chaos –
This earth, my brother, has become something else
Something that elicits too much consternation

I am on the world’s extreme corner



Prince Mensah is a contributing editor to One Ghana, One Voice. "Among The Sharps of The Forest" contains excerpts from Kofi Awoonor's poem "Songs of Sorrow".

This poem is part of our series of poems in memory of Kofi Awoonor. You can learn more about Awoonor and the series
here. If you have a poem in memory of Kofi Awoonor, please send it to us at oneghanaonevoice(at)gmail(dot)com.


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