Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Putting up a Structure

A mantra she often repeated in her time as education minister
Was about the great importance of putting up a structure
For there was a poverty in our development that had to be fought
And so she made the rounds of the donors for the funds we sought

It was hardly conducive to have classes gather under the sun, a roof of clear sky
Exposed to the vicissitudes of the elements, where it was hard to keep dry
With dust everywhere, tropical rainstorms, and other misfortunes
And the dissonance of so many learning in those outdoor classrooms

She would contrast with the comparatively well-appointed chambers
She beheld in her time at Volta Hall at the University at Legon
Let alone the high tables at Wolfson College in Cambridge
When she would drink port after dining with the dons

Yet this covidious affliction has caused quite the turnaround
Causing upheaval everywhere and making the once sound unsound
Ventilation is the order of the day if you want to avoid viral strife
Classes, as a best practice, would do well to gather outdoors, under trees of life

True, an elephant which is lean is still fatter than a cow
But it turns out going al fresco is all the rage everywhere now
I read of many western universities pondering outdoor tents
This upheaval is a rather bewildering turn of events

Still, it wasn't a wasted effort to construct those schools, indeed it's a miracle
There's always more to do, but I altogether think that we've come full circle
That in our village we now have not just a primary but even a secondary school
And the girls have dorms. The trees in the village commons keep things cool

A cast of high flyers who believed they were nigh invincible
Now have to abide, as it were, with the mosquito principle
Brought back to the ground to gather under trees of life
As ever, irony is the key register of African life

abutia tree in village commons

abutia secondary school girls dorm 2

mum inspects polytecnic

Putting up a Structure, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 29, 2021

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 4 Pity the Mink)

Of red herrings and intermediate hosts... Part 4 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

IV. Pity the Mink

It was quite unexpected, the b-movie playing on the mammy wagon screen
Was a romantic comedy with Doris Day and Cary Grant, A Touch of Mink
Normally the claims adjuster would have preferred something out of Bollywood
But this escapist fare, even if dated, was a worthy offering from Hollywood

Even with no song and dance, there was what he liked, a lot of back and forth
Will she or won't she, much demure posturing, yet it confronted the real sport
But the title gave him an idea about how to write humanity's next chapter
By the time he was done with them, they'd all be caught up in the rapture

As the mammy wagon entered the gleaming environs of the Wan settlements
The claims adjuster beheld the history of a people once known to be reticent
In days of yore, their traditional attire was the very rich silk brocade
But they had since forsaken those rituals for the easy profits of the fur trade

Subjugated all their erstwhile beguiling craft for what they called capitalism
Production was all, their society was all about eminent domain and its enthrallment
No time for the small things, a distorted economics of whimsy was their prime belief
Well, before he was through with them, they'd be sure to relearn anew the laws of grief

Nyame's claims adjuster sculpture

As he started to gather a few tools of the trade, he started to consider the praxis
The subtle distinction between his kind of adjudication and angels dispensing justice
In his view, the angels had no autonomy and behaved, quite frankly, like rote zombies
Shock and awe was all, there was no skill, so to speak, to their angelic practice

It had to be said, angels were long reputed for bringing delight and wonder
On that basis, the tribes forgot the downside of when they were torn asunder
For they also alternately delivered affliction, a panoply of cluster headaches
Claims adjusters always gave humanity agency, and the chance to correct their mistakes

The bureau stressed that adjusting was a search for truth and dignity
True, a byproduct of the process was being able to determine liability
All training materials in the adjustment manual emphasized proper procedures
People, processes and things was the mantra of the social software teachers

In his guise as an agent, the claims adjuster was rather conventional
But depending on the audience, he could feign the angelic or become feral
Thus it was that he made to approach the leaders of the Wan, the inscrutables
Those party apparatchiks untethered from reality who thought their operations were noble

He gave them the three standard warnings, emphasizing the gravity of the situation
But they wanted proof (from the gods! really!), he thought he'd heard every prevarication
In this business, you heard all manner of excuses, but, here, there was no denial
Rather, they were going with the kind of argument that would be tossed at a trial

This adjudication was going to be quite a bit easier than he expected
If all the tribes would behave in the same fashion, as he rather suspected
The local dignitaries of Wan tribe were coming upon their Lunar New Year
Oh well, those thousand household banquets would be the start of the trail of tears

Hubris, it was as if they assumed they could treat him like a common lawyer
Rather than with the due respect of the gods' representative, the claims adjuster
It was fascinating to behold the huhudious machinations of these human schemers
Who forgot that, as the proverb went, the okro plant never gets taller than the farmer

In the wet market, he spotted something that could be of use as a red herring
A local trader was displaying his wares, touting the virtues of eating pangolin
But right next to that stall was what he was looking for, "This will do, I think"
The beast looked quite wretched, but all's fair in love and war, pity the mink

claims adjuster

Pity the Mink, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Short Sale

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Writing log: Part 4 March 24, 2021

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Force Majeure

I like to think of good King Solomon as a claims adjuster
Whose renown came from the application of force majeure clauses
For the essence of his intervention in the famed custody dispute was none other
Than that how one reacts to sudden adversity determines whether we should get applause

It was Ananse the Spider who clean absconded with the pot of wisdom
When the tale of the lost stories became part of humanity's curriculum
Solomon's later strategic insight lay in the soul insurance he dispensed:
When the snake is in the house, there's no need to discuss the matter at length

Later, one can satisfy those with delicate sensibilities
Who would rudely cite due process, chapter and verse
But in the heat of the moment, borne of necessity
None can argue, decisive measures are of the essence

It is no wonder that a central banker,
In extremis, acts first to protect the rich
Ignore the cover story that the world was falling,
And all that business about systemic risk

Like a mother who instinctively gathers her brood
Hastening to escape a fire or avalanche
There's no time for observing the rules
Forget regulations, this is soul insurance

If I recall, it was the Sage of Omaha,
Warren Buffett, who once said
"Only when the tide goes out do you discover
Who's been swimming naked"

And Walter Bagehot in Lombard Street, it was that noted,
"Every great crisis reveals the excessive speculations
Of many houses which no one before suspected",
An altogether astute observation

We saw during the Great Recession,
Rules set aside, as if they were no longer in vogue
The haste with which the political system
Rushed to indemnify so many financial rogues

Scoundrels whose vulture capitalist behavior
Fomented wholesale casino Ponzi misdeeds
Not for nothing, many still made shocking profits,
Not the least of which the great vampire squid

Disasters, not least the covidious,
Reveal what societies are wont to value
They lay bare the fig leaves of consensus,
It's not what we say but what we do

Call it sharpening the contradictions
As the actions are often shown to be crude
These fugitive glimpses of the real world
And of those who were swimming in the nude

Oh the celebration at the outset, of the hordes, the brave essential workers
Yet some others formed betting pools on who would survive of their number
It was made fairly clear that if you worked in a meatpacking plant
You were an afterthought, for they only made to protect the banks

But back to our song of Solomon
And our erstwhile soul insurance agent
Who negotiated the terms and conditions
The policies and society's cost payments

Without shame we'll never reach herd immunity
Nay, for this policy there's no buyer's remorse
This pandemic is a signal moment of clarity
It's time to invoke the force majeure clause

Aburi mask

Force Majeure, a playlist

soundtrack for this note. See previously: Soul Insurance

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 29, 2021

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Quality of Life (Redux)

The volunteers carried litter sticks and plastic bags
They were out in force and seemed in rude health
One of them climbed down into the creek to pick up the trash
I thanked them, for I'd thought of cleaning the trail up myself
But always forgot, on our weekend walks, to bring a bag
To spend one's Saturday afternoon doing garbage collection
Is quite the antidote to our ongoing social isolation

And what do you know, just two weeks later
We passed, on the bridge, a couple of teenagers
With fishing poles at the ready dangling over the bridge
Lines dipping into this selfsame creek in search of fish
We thought back to those altruistic weekend warriors
Who tended the fabric of our commons in quiet sacrifice
I daresay, social living is the best. Quality of life.


rocks on creek bank


Perhaps it was the pandemic, and the phobia it elicited,
That caused me to stop frequenting places I normally visited
I succumbed somewhat to the caution of hygiene theater
The fear of fomites, the call for action of the gospel of germs
Like everyone, I wiped things religiously citing public health
A little overkill, wouldn't you think, for an airborne disease?
What it meant was that I'd stopped taking up those park seats

Turns out that there was also the small matter of comfort
For it's not very appealing when you lack lumbar support
Everything came into place when I noticed the new wooden slat
That added an extra cushion for when the weary traveler sat
Parks and Recs had budget, it seems; they fixed the bench, it was nice
Even without the green paint, it made all the difference. Quality of life.

quality of life


Don't call it a love letter, for it was merely appreciative
And kind, of this unknown neighbor to take the initiative
To pen, with loops and hearts adorning her I's, this grace note
"Hello Friend, I love your flowers!" was what she wrote
"You take very good care of the plants you share space with,
They look very happy!" Must be an expert on these things but who knows?
The letter concluded, "I wish that your love and care for each other grows"

Like the old man who lives in the park, she likes seeing me on my hands and knees
Slowly weeding and making a living home out front for the honeybees
The monarch butterflies and even hummingbird moths are all well served
Now that, with my seed infusion, I appear to have created a nature preserve
Surely, dear wife, you can't be jealous of such gracious folk?
Knowing full well this pandemic garden got its start for want of a bolt
You do know there's no alienation of affection, we can't have marital strife
The flower garden is a covidious dividend, isn't it? Quality of life.

hello friend I love your flowers

I'm Too Much, a playlist

A playlist is in order See previously: Quality of Life

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time

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Writing log: April 28, 2021

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Faint Praise

Occasionally lyrical, and always whimsical, he writes with the verve of the modern traveler
Her aesthetic choices are always daring, as if to strike a nerve, the tension is unbearable
He raises new vistas in his work, pushing towards the outer edges of the craft
A remarkable debut, her striking voice emerges fully formed, prismatic and thoughtful

Finely written, his book grapples with the liminal interstices of tradition and modernity
She captures something of the languor of the immigrant's condition and its tragedy
Thus it was a surprise to behold the new directions he is pursuing, a testament to his ambitions
Now she has turned her keen lens on western idées fixes, she sites her work at an unquiet juncture

Favoring the edgy, the argument becomes a touch unrefined, it betrays his purpose
The pose of the insider has served her well, less incisive are her wrought portrayals
A close reading reveals the shortcomings of his troubling and combative approach
What are we to make, on the page, of her more experimental departures?

Tellingly, the initial promise and aplomb appear to have gone awry on this well worn terrain
It is when she strays into Austenite stylings that she loses the edge to her oft-biting satire
By pursuing the phantom thread of dislocation, he risks raising the tired tropes of mulatto identity
The Forster inclination doesn't serve her well, her gimlet quill ought to be reserved for life's incongruities

The subtext is clear, sure you can write, but next time stay in your lane
What the academy bestows freely, it also reserves the right to reframe
As flavor of the month, play the game wisely or you may come up short
The funk song was a fiction: All the critics love you in New York

bearing gifts

Faint Praise, a playlist

A soundtrack for this cautionary tale.

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Flavor of the Month

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Writing log: April 28, 2021

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 3 An Audience with the Linguist)

In which we behold the elevator pitch... Part 3 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

III. An Audience with the Linguist

Fifi was a little put out that he was the one chosen to take Ananse to the linguist
He had other business on his agenda, namely the big mango tree was bearing fruit
Also he'd spotted some yor-yee by the way and his yearning was quite acute
The taste of black velvet tamarind is a delight that is so distinguished

Instead, he'd have to cede ground to the other children and give his delicacies up
Also, now that he had a closer look, the spider didn't seem entirely on the up-and-up
He oozed the aura of a traveling salesman, jaded in affect, hardboiled even
A consummate purveyor of any product, it didn't matter what he was selling

Earlier the scribe had ordered him to use the back way to convey the visitor
Thus he had ample time en route to assess Ananse and chat with this smooth operator
In the event, Ananse immediately started to put the wheels of his shell game in motion
"Young man, draw near, you look like you have a promising future. I have a proposition..."

I need not trouble you with the details, Dear Reader, suffice to call them delinquent
Fifi was immediately taken in, it didn't take much to succumb to wishful thinking
For it was written in the good books that those who embraced the paradise of a mango
Would no doubt recognize that verity: it takes two to do the corruption tango

Ananse had them stop at a chop bar, he had a taste for guinea fowl and some roast duck
This was no diversion, he always sealed his foul deals with the pleasures of a full stomach
At length, they came upon the main complex, home of the Kingsway skyscrapers
The seat of power, the linguist's ministries lay in those six looming towers

by his grace

As it happened, the chief linguist was right there on the cusp of entering the building
Fifi, after collecting his honorarium, promptly made the introduction, it was fitting
But, very quickly, it appeared that there would be no time for pleasantries
The linguist had his game face on, stern, as if he was about to face adversaries

"You do realize that I'm a busy man, Mister Ananse, is it?", said the chief linguist
"Walk with me up the elevator, I can certainly give you a few minutes of my time
I'm sure a well practiced operator like yourself, Mister Ananse, can make a pitch
Your reputation precedes you, I certainly hope you do not plan to sell us a bridge"

Ananse didn't blink any of his eight eyes, but he had to think quick
He wouldn't be able to use his powerpoint slides and synchronized music
This was a case that clearly called for speaking with forked tongue
Not his usual fare but, by hook or crook, this deal had to be swung

Still he didn't take the linguist's bravado at face value, but with a grain of salt
He doubted that these Ushers would have reprogrammed the sensors from the defaults
He had noticed as they'd stepped into the elevator lobby that Otis was the manufacturer
There would be an extra minute of waiting. He marveled at the small things he remembered

In the event, he didn't need the extra time, it was a sellers market
The linguist was easily bamboozled, like a rube in a frothy stock market
The standard spiel: I'm not here to sell you a novel product and confusion
Rather, think of me, Ananse, as simply offering access to a proven solution

You've heard of life insurance, whole life, term life, and that jazz
It only pays out when you are beyond the grave, it doesn't last
Soul insurance is what I have to offer, a balm, a soothing remedy
The blows will be coming but, with it, you'll dodge any adversity

The linguist was entirely entranced, as if he'd seen stolen loot in a museum
Soul insurance, the mere concept glittered, that way lay the road to freedom
Once uttered, it was disruptive, look at the possibilities, a new paradigm for humanity
A surefire approach, the ancients would, no doubt, approve for the avoidance of uncertainty

Although he wouldn't begrudge a middleman and market maker their dues
Quibbling a la carte, all societies needed these originals and their muse
Still, he started to give thought to how to cut out the spider from the transaction
He bade the young man call up a cab, his favorite, the one branded with Determination

determination crop 2

Elevator Pitch, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Always be closing. (spotify version)
fairy garden 8

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: Pity the Mink

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Writing log: Part 3 March 23, 2021

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Kenya Elections

2022 is an election year in Kenya. Africa is needing good news on the democratic front but it is fair to say that Kenya's political class has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. We hold our breath and pray for no drama.

60 years later some of the names are still in play. Kenyatta and Odinga are still relevant albeit of later generations.

Odinga visits Kenyatta in detention march 1961

— Odinga Odinga visiting Jomo Kenyatta in detention (March 1961)

African election campaigns can be a curious mix of crude and sophisticated. From bagmen distributing rice (or just t-shirts, votes can be cheap) to, say, consultants from Cambridge Analytica hawking their influencer wares as was attempted in 2016 in Ghana. There's a broad spectrum of approaches.

odinga odinga campaigning in eldoret Africa Report 1966

— Odinga Odinga campaigning in Eldoret in the 1966 election campaign.

kenyatta at kandara africa report 1966-10-059 kenya's little general election

— Jomo Kenyatta campaigning at Kandara in the 1966 election campaign.

Politics is a contact sport. Elections in a covidious time can be fraught affairs, needless to say, Observers are worried
An election, rigged or not, is a stimulus package.

Since I jotted down these thoughts in February, I have been pleasantly surprised that I haven't been hearing much from Kenya. I understand things are heating up and campaigning is ongoing, but thankfully there has been precious little of what we saw in the lead up to the last elections. The nomination process was bruising but civil society seems to be tempering the worst impulses of the politicians. No news is good news in this respect and normalcy is good for business.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Important Participations

The participation could have been normal and without a fuss, but Africa's enemies, Sudan's enemies and the enemies of peace-loving countries wanted to try and turn it into a drama, to prevent the president from important participations.

— Sudan's foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour as quoted in Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir leaves South Africa as court orders his arrest to face genocide charges at ICC (Reuters, June 2015)
The boss is a Lion of Africa, you can't treat him like an animal
Denying him important participations is, quite frankly, criminal
Sure: trade sanctions, Security Council resolutions, and all the rest
But this new imposition is a bridge too far, he's quite upset

We all know his economic direction and commitment to reform
His policies have stood the test of time, the revolution moves on
You there, Madame Ambassador, don't give me that baloney about Darfur
When security arrangements and regional stability are what you care for

I don't see you picking fights with Vladimir of Russia
About how they dealt with their internal matters in Chechnya
Cross Mister Putin and you might get the poison treatment
Or the fruits of an exotic nuclear radiation experiment

To have him flee as if he was a warlord like Charles Taylor
For shame, he had to leave post-haste mid-bite and mid-dinner
He'd been promised a braai which, I understand, is a South African delicacy
One bite was all that he could manage before our team withdrew him hastily

So what if there was an early nexus with the Sheikh, Osama Bin Laden
We all make mistakes, you are lying in bed with Bonecutter bin Salman
And as for Al-Turabi, another Sheikh that thought he was a leader
Well, the boss taught him a lesson about the real meaning of power

Well you should know that there's something about Omar al-Bashir
That you've disrupted his jaunt to Johannesburg is a great slur
Recall, he who speaks with forked tongue is a master of statecraft
Quoth the proverb: When Allah created the Sudan, he laughed

No this won't do at all, I must say, on this point, let me be explicit
On pain of blowback, this your hasty decision you'll have to revisit
Recall when He of the Little Green Book was here, we held excellent discussions
I warn you: stop preventing the president from important participations

oau meeting africa report 1966-04-045 african unity reassessed wallerstein

Tracing some Fallen Angels

Omar al-bashir at trial

The Boss, a playlist

soundtrack for this complaint.
Omar al Bashir and defense minister

One wonders: will he have the last laugh?


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: Concept July 16, 2015; April 24, 2021

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


I have to say, ear doctors are the most unsympathetic lot
Awful people, they only prescribe a little rest and, maybe, time off
So quick to put you on a course of oral antibiotics and send you on your way
Uh-huh, yes the ear is inflamed, you've had your two minutes, the exit is that way

They have no bedside manner to speak of, it rather seems like a badge of honor
They never alleviate your dismay, it feels like they're ignoring your trauma
For if you find yourself needing an ear specialist, you're already in a world of trouble
You should know very well that it's now down to prayer, that's how the cookie crumbles

The pain is right there, your sinuses are going haywire, and you are going insane
It's way too close for comfort, there's no deadening the aural assault on your brain
Perhaps the infection is viral or your tympanum took a knock
Or maybe it's bacterial but you're still dealing with the aftershocks

Off kilter you're destabilized, you've just about lost your bearings
That's when you realize that you've well and truly lost your hearing
The doctor crinkles, or snaps their fingers right next to your ear
You didn't even flinch, the sound was lost, it plain disappeared

K Baka: Woman with calabash 2004

A Temporary Inconvenience

For a quite alarming number of times, I've woken up over the past decade
Having lost the hearing in one ear (the ear in question seems to alternate)
I've been told, in my case, that it's a matter of physiognomy:
The combination of poor drainage of my sinusoidal cavities
(Their perversely shaped contours apparently don't help things),
Small ears, and a latter-day propensity for prodigious production
Of earwax. These episodes of partial deafness have typically lasted
From as little as two hours to a few days - always longer than forecasted

The current assault on my middle ear, however, at ten days and counting,
Is pushing beyond the realm of temporary inconvenience - tensions are mounting
It's not just that I haven't been able to listen properly to the new José James album
Left to hearing his golden voice in muffled mono quite abases the glorious production
The sound, as if coming from a locked trunk packed with ancient manuscripts
Hurriedly buried in a desert backyard in Timbuktu - under Sharia law, that is,
Is painful enough, it's that, as the days drag on, I'm beginning
To contemplate what might possibly happen if modern medicine
And my body's defenses don't resolve things successfully.
The reality is that deafness will be my friend
As the saying goes, no condition is permanent
So I stew, and let that thought sink in wistfully

Incidentally, the album is rather ominously titled No Beginning, No End.
Perhaps it's in that vein that I listened blithely (with my good ear)
To a doctor cheerily informing me that my hearing will "probably come back", (when?)
And "most likely after a couple of weeks", (sigh, at least it wasn't a year)
Those hedging qualifiers were what I held on to - I was strangely elated,
Rather than the alarmingly lengthy time horizon she also contemplated.
I write, however, not to bemoan my lot because, obviously, things could be worse:
I count my aural blessings that I'm not yet appointed to end up in a hearse

The surprising thing, once you get over the bewilderment of sinusoidal oppression
And hearing loss, is that one is able to carry on living a quite full life.
Moreover, there's nothing like a temporary disability to make you rethink things;
People don't think enough these days, they move to action and half-step
I'm rather inclined to take the glass half-full notion to being half-deaf,
Heck, if you choose, strategically, where to sit in a hypothetical office encounter,
You'd avoid having to hear much that annoys you - and others would be none the wiser.
And ear splitting cries of babies, to take another example of occupational hazards,
Can easily become mere pantomimes, even hot air. You get to focus on what really matters.

wuddah-martey little drummer boy 1998


Listen, aural sensations are so very hard to give up
Count your blessings even when they're spouting claptrap
For sounds, even the most benighted, are truly a wondrous gift from the gods
Beyond their initial purpose of equipping most of us to defy nature's odds
To hear a baby's first cries, or to be lost in a lover's sighs
Think to your desert island necessaries, the music that heartens the soul
Visions may be first on my list, but the sound of When Doves Cry never gets old
Equanimous is my middle name, I trust that all will be resolved in due course
As a Ghanaian, I don't subscribe to the modern theory of buyer's remorse

Listen, a playlist

A soulful playlist underlined by the delightful sounds of José James. Try to catch him live if you ever can. He is the truth. Enjoy. See previously ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: April 14, 2021

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Backyard Bioprospecting

The birds have become positively giddy in the backyard
They seem to like the new plants that I sowed
But I just realized that perhaps it was the poppies
That were the present I shouldn't have bestowed

Beasts of burden, they start to flail awkwardly
Their movements are quite like a drunken sailor
Among the plants, you see them crashing around willy nilly
Even disturbing the squirrels along the perimeter

Initially I thought that it was some large nocturnal animal
That was laying waste to my poppies, leaving only the petals
But I started to observe the daytime routine of the birds
That had become the new repeat visitors to my house of cards

Altogether intoxicated by the sweet nectar
They were rather enchanted by the recent discovery
Of this new variant of the Gods' elixir
A taste of life, perchance to escape daily miseries

The packet of seeds I'd obtained before Amazon
Had brought that trade to a full stop
Was showing the potency of what could happen
When you reap the Wuhan crop


Punch Drunk, a playlist

Sometimes addiction is escapism, anaesthesizing the bearer from a surfeit of reality, sometimes it cannot be helped. A playlist on a loss of inhibition. I keep wondering if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ought to investigate the kind of controlled substance that has been elevating the minds of my backyard birds. Alternatively, a cartel might pursue a forensic examination. We'll see what the growing season provides next year.

poppy before their discovery

This tall tale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: April 19, 2021

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Soul Insurance (Part 2 Enter the Claims Adjuster)

Adjudication begins... Part 2 of Soul Insurance

II. Enter the Claims Adjuster

Meanwhile, the claims adjuster had already started to make his way to the plains
He threw a few changes of clothes in the bag he used for this business
Laying waste to a people could sometimes be messy, as god was his witness
Other than the blood, it was mostly the tears of the widowed that left stains

Thus he packed a few extra pods of detergent, he placed them in a ziploc bag
He was trying out a new brand, the new formula Tide cleaned better, they bragged
He always carried spares of the latest creations that could pass through customs
These days regulations had been relaxed, and one could travel with these substances

For his luggage, he had decided to try out one of those sturdy bags
Plastic, lightweight, it was quite practical for the upcoming task
Wrapped with a little tape around it, whether cellotape or duct tape
It would be a good signal to all that it was now time for them to pack

Being rugged and functional, he was quite sure that it wouldn't split
Before he arrived at his destination, and gave the cease and desist
The bag could take being manhandled by the underpaid bag handlers
And its distinctive plaid was appreciated by many across the border

He'd used them repeatedly when dealing with those who lived in the torrid zone
Back then, the punishment of choice was merely being forced to leave one's home
This was an earlier time, what they wistfully called their lost decades
A little presumptuous of them, they had even given the bags a nickname

Nyame's claims adjuster sculpture

He would start in the east, Chwedru, between the sea and the lagoon
The Wan tribe were long accustomed, close companions, to misfortune
Hard working, sporting blank faces, some labeled them orientals
Beasts of burden, they behaved as if sleep was merely incidental

They were up-and-coming and constantly kept harkening back to their golden age
It was almost like a tic, this nostalgia for when they ruled the world stage
The faded glories of empires and dynasties, when they were number one
But for centuries now, they were second best, consigned to the utilitarian

If he had to adjust that lot he could draw on their long history of oppression
And weigh that against their relatively recent state of exploitation
Their rise as the world's bread basket, home of the big tribe that could
Underestimate them at your peril, the song went: "Don't let me be misunderstood"

jo bag: ghana must go in South Africa

Nyame's direction was sometimes ambiguous and, in practice, hard to measure
Despite the terms of employment, the adjuster didn't care much for adventure
The exact nature of his adjudication was normally left to his discretion
He enjoyed his work, especially the nuts and bolts of the investigation

When you have an arrangement, as the gods did, incorporated as The Company
You were all but guaranteed to encounter a troubling lack of consistency
The body-soul duality was one thing, but try dealing with the complexity
Of the cosmology they'd now come to, and the aspects of their Holy Trinity

He knew that Odomankoma would advocate for humanity as a matter of course
But when Nyame was this displeased, normally all bets would be off
That left Nyankopon, who sometimes tempered the wrath of Nyame, his evil eye
He'd have to sound out Nyankopon before adjusting, his opinion would break the tie

He preferred working for conquerors, their catechism was understood rather easily
None of the ambiguity of The Company, precise orders akin to the military
Black and white, there were no shades of gray
One wrong move and you would be made to pay

The organization of the gods' corporation left a lot to be desired, of course
But then, you could hardly complain successfully about the gods
That was a home truth acknowledged almost universally
For they might deal with your impertinence rather brutally

Although, there was always a loophole, there was the whistleblower provision
But, due to their being all knowing, it was hard to avoid retaliation
He remembered a previous agent, who had gone through the official channels
Without any fear that his very existence could be duly canceled

He'd lodged his complaint against, get this, Nyame of all the gods
The agent would later rue his mistake and wish he'd remained anonymous
The adjuster had never had to resort to testing the system like that poor sod
A betting man, he would never lay a wager in a game with those long odds

The adjuster had become a little jaded having to constantly deal with deceit
So he had inscribed the bag with his new monogram in a fit of conceit
GRIST was his new calling card, he would lay it out like a destroyer
G stood for the gods that had now become his regular employers
R for the review of the scrolls that duly reported the malice
I for his inspections of the actual damage, their extent that is
S for speaking to the witnesses, almost all of whom were known dissemblers
T for the quiet talks with the gods after dispensing his brand of justice

The part of his job he enjoyed most was the tales of the witnesses
The lazy fictions they proffered, and the rare, rather great, inventions
Spun out of whole cloth these last, their patterns of exchange intriguing
But a leopard cannot change its spots, they'd ultimately fail at misleading

There was one thing the adjuster admired about the humans, their hubris
They expected consistency, that every day the sun would rise in the sky
His mammy wagon arrived, it was on time, and left just a minute after two
The slogan at the top read Sea Never Dry. He chuckled, if only they knew

Sea Never Dry

The Claims Adjuster, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note, he means business.

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink

This folktale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: An Audience with the Linguist

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Writing log: Part 2 March 22, 2021

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Stereotype

You know too the stereotype about black men, that we care too deeply
Unlike the rest of the world, all those shifty flaneurs living carefree

The black man's burden is of a lifetime duty of care and responsibility
The lack of physicality is appalling which, I daresay, is why we hide our bodies

What a life, always the first pick for the keynote at the philosophy colloquium
And hopelessly out of our league in athletic sports except in technical events, say equestrian

Always to be found, long past the midnight hour, in the lab at the science center
And hard at work in the afternoon, when most others are taking their siesta

Can't get them to crack a smile, so humorless, always so serious
Two left feet on the dance floor, no rhythm to speak of, can't carry a chorus

Unlike those undisciplined others who are so quick to lose their temper
Equanimity in repose is the natural mode of the African, the cerebral thinker

Forever with masks of civility, a confession of faith
A model minority dedicated to inspiring higher forms of debate

A change in perspective, badged with the confident sovereign's regard for tradition
Elevating the discourse, our contribution to humanity's curriculum is conversation


You know too the stereotype about black men, that we write long poems
One stanza is never enough, effusive outpourings are the order of the day

This afternoon, The Wife ran up the stairs away from me shouting
"Don't give me another poem to read". The prospect is of marital counseling

While my poet friends have always casually stressed its pickup potential and aphrodisiac powers
They never mentioned that poetry has been cited as grounds for divorce in New York courts

I'm genuinely curious what the tipping point was that forced her drastic measures
I'd like to think it was the quantity, rather than the quality of my poetic gestures

Did she see me approach with a sheet of paper? Was that the tip off?
Perhaps I should instead be declaiming my fragments of lyric verse

I too have watched Love Jones and realize that the spoken word cats
Get a lot of love and action. I've got to change up my game quick fast

Was it the accumulation of metaphor that broke the camel's back?
Or the searching scrutiny every encounter is now provoking? Imagine that

Quoth Chateaubriand, poets are like birds, the least thing makes them sing
Witness this poetic impulse now causing marital discord and misgiving

Needless to say, the warning shot was fired, I'm going to have to stay in my lane
I'll have to make do with you, Dear Reader, if only for the sake of my children


You know too the stereotype about black men, that we have large vocabularies
And frequent affairs of the heart, owing to a frisson de folksonomie

Liminal undertakings, we pursue the psychogeography of far regions of the mind
Forever mindful that some only fancy the hyperlinked territory we outline

The hatchet job tag gets a lot of mileage, that and the proverbial zingers
Fallen angels abound, those rogues, the strange bedfellows and the grifters

Aficionado of shell games, I'll concede an obsession with gremlins and parasites
These last may get plaudits, but take heed of their insatiable appetites

The human factors, the economics of whimsy, and the laws of grief
It's all about manufactured serendipity and finding comfort suites

Where comprehension is poor, turn to glue layer people, their networks and infrastructure
We seek to capture social interplay through observation, the changing perceptions of culture

If there are dark matters, there is the determination to bear witness
Biting satire as a weapon when confronting the heart of darkness

The necessity of permanent outrage informs the exiled soul's identity
An immigrant's stance contra dislocation and this fraught modernity

The joy of small things is a mainstay as is compulsive storytelling
Humour is everywhere in communities and ultimately social living

Of late, public health has been a focus what with this covidious pandemic
Needless to say, the specter of the superspreader looms, observers are worried

The one important contribution that the African can make to the world is to keep reminding everyone that it is out of sympathy and the love for one another that we can build eventually what is valuable and peaceful.

- Kofi Abrefa Busia, The Prospects For Democracy In Africa

aburi mask

Stereotype, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Looks aren't everything. ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log. Concept: April 1, 2006; April 26, 2021

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Idleness Outlawed

He'd decided to go even further than the communists
Who maintained that it was illegal to not have a job
The future emperor improvised with this novel twist:
The added condition that idleness would be outlawed

Thus "Idleness Outlawed" read the headline in Africa Report
The news intimated something akin to a kangaroo court
For idleness isn't disturbing tranquility or moving to cavort
Inertia, even Barthelby's, doesn't normally incite contempt of court

Thus the first of August 1966 was a date to remember
To paraphrase, always something new out of the heart of Africa
The Central African Republic government made laziness a crime
Punishable by up to a year in prison and a heavy fine

All was laid out in a decree emphasizing the "national duty to work"
The regime stated that healthy residents of both sexes - the young turks,
Between the ages of 18 and 55, must show evidence of working for a living
Or get the "or else" treatment, the unspoken threat of a Bond villain

The statute book stated violators faced arrest by "control brigades"
That would "scour the country in search of loafers" and those who strayed
Earlier, the President told government officials to "shake off their lethargy"
If they wished to avoid being fired, or transferred for defying authority

That literary man Bokassa, as history bore witness,
Hearkened explicitly to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Fears of being transferred into the bush in Central Africa were not overblown
For indolence could prompt a journey to the epicenter of the torrid zone

This was, I suppose, years before he crowned himself Emperor
And before we started to hear the cannibalistic rumours
He had taken over months earlier in a coup on New Year's Eve
His countrymen were to experience dread they could hardly conceive

"Scour the country in search of loafers" and "shake off their lethargy"
The things that we have suffered in Africa, it doesn't bear scrutiny
The panache of uneasy phrases, the inventiveness of their euphemisms
The African leaders bestiary, rogues who heed the conqueror's catechism


Idleness Outlawed, a playlist

A soundtrack to shake off our lethargy.
the military seize power africa report 1966-02-001


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See also: In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell

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Writing log. Concept: July 9, 2020; March 29, 2021