Thursday, December 23, 2021

Season of Migration

Refugees all, we in Africa are no strangers to dislocation, in many ways it is our close friend.

Bags and Stamps
Welcome, Dislocation, old friend, so nice to see you again Mister
Come on in, Struggle is over there, we were just fixing drinks
What will you have? Homeland was trying out the sangria earlier
How was it homie? Did it pass the test? Tell me, what do you think?

Really? Well we can't have you drinking something that's merely ordinary
Come, let's get you something more substantive, I have a special wine
Or are you thinking whisky at this hour? Tell me your bottom line
Shelter, back there yonder, got started on a vintage bottle already

Knowing him, when he gets to work on these things, you might be out of luck
That guy can hold his drink, he's probably making pilgrim's progress
What's this I'm hearing? Good god, the pandemic's got you all mixed up?
You've lost your sense of taste? And ginger beer is now your weakness?

Well I can accommodate you, my friend, I think - it takes all sorts
We have a Jamaican one around somewhere but, please, no buyer's remorse
Before you leave, let me serve you some palm wine, some akpeteshie
That legend, Redemption, thinks it's quite worthy of a speakeasy

You know the story behind that one, we got it when we were getting married
And scoping out caterers for the wedding banquet at the last minute
The Nigerian caterer gave it to us on the house, said we deserved it
We asked, "What about the liquor license?" And sighed, "Oh, it's no use.
It would really round out the menu, oh this is such a case of regret"
That guy, cracked his Yoruba smile, and replied, I'll never forget,
"These oyibo get so confused, we simply call it palm juice"

The tides picked you up again, fear not, you shall return to your land
Remember, the world is your port of call, everything is written in sand
Nostalgia said he'd show his face. That guy, he never answers his phone
He never makes our cooking sessions, he spends his time in the torrid zone

bags and things

Immigrant, a playlist

A cocktail hour playlist for this holiday party (spotify version)

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: March 21, 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2021


I first met my sister one Christmas Eve, I was about to reach my maturity
A long story, gaps, pain, and the ellipses that belie a longer history
Of such things are families made, what with the undercurrent of trauma
Still, that quarter century was tough to bridge between mother and daughter

We'd been talking over the months and now it was a family reunion
Feeling each other out, exchanging banalities, she was unassuming
The three of us in the Brent Cross flat, a typically cold English winter
Contra London's grey, we all wore the most godawful sweaters

We settled in with no wariness and just got on
Cool customers, we were nothing if not nonchalant
They stared at each other these proud African women
My aunt made it a fourth in our exiled quadrant

A meeting of minds, myself, aunt, sister, and mother
Exiled souls, from homelands and from each other
Four lonely Londoners now missing Nigeria and Ghana
Wondering how to write the script for tomorrow's chapter

The usual suspects came into play: respect, deference, shame, and matters of protocol
We found our way through the initial unease and established our new rituals
Not knowing what one should expect, our trajectories in life were not too dissimilar
Still it was disconcerting, in the moment, to experience the shock of the familiar

Crafting narratives, some of us for a living, we were all born storytellers
Truth and reconciliation, it was hard to tell who could top the other
We could each raise the stakes recounting close encounters
And mention the harrowing escapes that marked our identities
The stolen moments we now shared, the tale of the lost stories

We quickly forgot the hurt and settled into the comfort suites of teasing
Deflecting past slights with irony and dry humor, we practiced the art of easing
Still, the mannerisms were uncanny, genetics could not be denied
Fittingly, the first movie we watched together was Secrets and Lies

ghana artwork mother and child

Elliptical, a playlist

The soundtrack to this grace note comes courtesy of Meshell NdgegeOcello, purveyor of liquid soul and elliptical funk grooves. (spotify version)

I nominate this brief note for The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of Social Living. What paradise have we lost?

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Writing log: March 25, 2021

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Restructuring Activities

The blue bags were the detail that lingered and that you first noticed
As the security guards escorted the unfortunate souls out of the building
The royal blue of our corporate logo, not quite Ikea blue or Big Blue
Lovely plastic bags filled with personal belongings, photos, wages due

The rumours had been spreading for weeks, it was hard to get any work done
We'd all started to worry about bank balances and the lack of emergency funds
The sword of the corporate Damocles loomed large over our heads
Water cooler conversation circled uneasily around the shape of dread

Some started polishing LinkedIn profiles and resumes
Replying to the recruiters' emails, the curriculum vitae
Truth be told, it could have been you that day, it was a roll of the dice
You'd been on the other side previously, the experience wasn't very nice

A day later, in Skype a number of avatars had "Presence unknown" as their status
Next to the grey offline dot, that naming designation was appropriately callous
The faces of the wounded members of your tribe forcibly ejected into the unknown
The rest of you counted your blessings and continued working in the torrid zone

ghana must go versus ikea

The corporate communications were full of inspired euphemisms
Uneasy phrases that outlined the process behind these resource actions
The passive voice reigned supreme, in this agitation there were no actors
The dry prose never assigned clear responsibility, only fudge factors

The actions were ongoing, the separations were involuntary
This opacity about the recent events and their inevitability
It was all about "the changes that we've made", those were mandatory
"The decisions we've had to make", on the other hand, were necessary

Tough love was in our future, there could be no promises about tomorrow
Indeed we were to understand that management was tinged with sorrow
And the logistics were tricky, it takes weeks to layoff thousands
When you wanted to present a human face you had to make allowances

Give them a couple of weeks severance, and explain their options
The bottom line was, we had to put this behind us, it was time to move on
A wilful erasure of the cheeriness and all the previous certainties
The stage was set, we'd simply have to endure these restructuring activities

heavy lifting

In the aftermath of this round of layoffs, I don't quite know what possessed me
To raise my hand, and indeed, my voice at the all hands meeting with my query
I simply asked the smiling executives if they could give us any guarantees
That those who had so grossly misallocated capital in stock buybacks
Had now adopted the right strategy to put The Company on the right track

There was a stunned silence at my impertinence, who knew?
"That's a very interesting question, you're not holding back, are you?
What was your name again?", he chuckled, that's all she wrote
Uh oh, you and your big mouth, I guess they were taking notes

In the event, the answer he gave was as expected:
"Piffle, paffle, wiffle, waffle"
Said with enough empathy to leave everyone baffled
In the land of concern, we wouldn't feel neglected

"Does that answer your question?"
"Indeed, thank you sir, I've learned a great lesson"
Woe is me, I should have kept my mouth shut
My future prospects had just received a haircut

Come to think of it, I never got a raise after that outburst
Luckily they weren't vindictive, they didn't do their worst
I've had years to recover, I make a good living, I can't say that I'm bitter
These days I keep my rather mild critiques of modern day shell games to Twitter

south africa must stay and ghana must go

Restructuring Activities, a playlist

A soundtrack for this pink slip, I must admit I found it difficult to get beyond Gil Scott-Heron who captured this mournful moment with uncanny accuracy. Pieces of a man collected in blue bags. (spotify version)

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log. Concept: November 15 2018; March 25, 2021