Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Her sweatshirt read "Have more empathy"
That was the detail that struck you so vividly
As you bent and swerved to dodge the incoming blow
Perhaps, you thought, what you reap is what you sow

Next was her earlier comment, "Some of us have got principles".
It was fascinating to be in the presence of this feral dynamo
Who in England would, no doubt, be subject to an ASBO.
Fury might have been her middle name, hers was formidable.



She was carrying an umbrella although it wasn't raining,
Nor, indeed, was it sunny. Mask and anorak even in the hot weather.
Shifty, she made to hide behind the tree as you were approaching
Swerving as she did, she twirled her umbrella.
The Wife moved automatically to the other side, the other trail
She could tell that something was awry with the woman. She looked frail.

You were undaunted and continued walking towards her.
Eventually - there were a few false starts here and there,
She peeked out from beyond the tree and started walking.
You gave her a head nod as you passed - acknowledging.
She raised the umbrella then asked in a loud voice,
"Did you get your check?", clear even over the background noise

Hmmm. Was she really worried about Uncle Joe's stimulus check?
Actually no, you had too much income to qualify for it.
"No", you muttered. Yours was a privileged situation
"I didn't either." She took it as confirmation
That those of our skin tone were being duly denied
A seat at the table, leaving much to be decried.

You decided not to explain your good fortune
For who knew how she would take it in her agitation,
You moved on, quickly grabbing The Seven Year Old, tightly held
You told him "Always be respectful of the strays of the world."

strays by kukua

Strays, a playlist

A soundtrack to this note (spotify version) See previously: The Old Man Who Lives in the Park

Illustrations: Kukua Akumanyi

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

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Writing log: April 30, 2021

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Up Close and Personal

I recall a roadside nail salon, I saw them grooming in the streets
Now stuck at home, many learned what you could do without in extremis
This global pause, borne of a disease and planetary emergency,
Has caused many a reconsideration of one's identity
For you could go without many strictures that society used to impose
All the way from haircuts, to fancy nails, and even working clothes
What they termed domestic cozy escaped from being a passing fad
To become a universal pose, a way of life lived in your sweatpants

Not for nothing that the first ones to mandate a return to the office
Were J.P. Morgan, the investment bankers, factotums of the monopolists
It's hard to justify the chores of the masters of the universe
At a remove from boiler rooms, alpha males lack people to coerce
The burden of their capitalism demanded that labour return to the fold

I'm minded that The Grind Date
   was not just an album recorded by De La Soul
The loudest cries to reopen the economy
   came from, well, call them vultures
Equipped with perverse incentives galore,
   a shame aversion subculture
But the virus sets the timeline,
   we are yet to reach herd immunity
And even with vaccine nationalism,
   a global disease requires global solidarity

nail salon on the median

nail salon

Up Close and Personal, 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 30, 2021

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


The little glass fondleslabs
Were not the first to rob us of the interstices
But they were, truth be told,
Leaps and bounds, the most effective

While you waited in line, it was all too tempting
To whip it out of your pocket and, into its warm glow, plunge in
Better, during the commute, to plug in the headphones and listen
To scan the headlines or pursue whatever was the latest distraction

Versatile too, the mobile package, if charged,
Could supply essentially unlimited attractions
But this was not new, a thick broadsheet unfolded carefully
Could divert you to yesterday's news just as easily

But the convenience was the difference,
Oh so unobtrusive and frictionless,
Deployed in a single motion from one's pocket,
One handed operation supported
One click and you were transported

A paradox of modernity, no more idle chat while you wait for the bus
It's enough to make you wonder, what paradise have we lost?
And so I, for one, bemoan the loss of friction
The interstitial is on the brink of extinction

bored teenagers

Interstitial, a playlist

As is my custom, a soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

See previously

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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

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Writing log: May 1, 2021

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 gathered 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
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

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