Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The First Time

The first time I stepped on a plane, it took a bag of candy
The first time I stepped off a plane, my stomach learned what my mother held, namely that I shouldn't be greedy

The first time I made to kiss
The first time, I do believe, I missed

The first time wasn't the greatest
The first time was about togetherness

The first time the blow came towards me on the playground
The first time I beheld that turning the other cheek, as a practical philosophy, stood on shaky ground

The first time I held someone back, and said cool down your temper
The first time I myself exercised restraint, that one I remember

The first time I practiced what I preached
The first time I was well and truly deceived

The first time I made a lasting friend
The first time, as god is my witness, I realized there would be no end

The first time I had no shame
The first time I played that game

The first time I heard you sigh
The first time I made you cry

The first time I swallowed my pride, and tried to conjure a smile
The first time something small inside me irrevocably died

The first time I bore the strength of my convictions
The first time I betrayed my heart, it was confounding

The first time the car flipped and I pulled my cousin as he tried to leap out of the window
The first time I saw someone die, and learned that no one is promised tomorrow

The first time the dam broke, unbidden, and out poured the torrent of tears
The first time I remembered the feeling and cried harder, even after all those years

The first time I revealed something of myself, I felt as if I was nude
The first time I broke the veil was really just a prelude

The first time I heard my daughter's cry
The first time my son broke that mischievous smile

The first time the customary pay raise to beat inflation was summarily denied
The first time they called it a resource action, the coinage letting me know that I was fired

The first time I trafficked in fictions
The first time I mastered the art of misdirection

The first time the soldiers came to the house, I was nine years old
The first time exile beckoned that dawn in the Amsterdam airport, good Lord, it was cold

The first time that class of five year olds burst into laughter at how I pronounced pipe in French
The first time, months later, this 9 year old skipped four grades, and exacted a kind of revenge

The first time I was lampposted I thought it was quite rude
The first time I lampposted someone, it was I that was being cruel

The first time I was plagiarized I was outraged and furious
The first time Ghana beat the USA at the World Cup I was delirious

The first time I laughed so hard I couldn't believe the extent to which I was amused
The first time the full weight of human malevolence left me feeling abused

The first time I faced overt racism I was quite confused
The first time I faced microaggressions I was rather bemused

The first time I visited a zoo was in London, 1980, the special exhibit was a white man in a cage
The first time I was taunted about my race, I retorted that "You, yes you, are the ignorant savage"

The first time I run unthinking towards the burglar coming up the stairs I couldn't believe
The first time I rushed my son to the emergency room, like him I could hardly breathe

The first time I failed, there was a mountain of regret
The first time I made a conscious decision to forget

The first time a reader said thanks for what you're doing
The first time my dad said my poetic gestures were improving

The first time I grew something successfully from seed
The first time I wrote a poem that I thought I could keep

don't mind your wife chop bar at the local market

The First Time, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) Timing is everything
Observers are worried

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: May 8, 2021

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Talk True

First the slap, then the heavy blows
"Talk. Talk true."

Then, well... that was your welcome
"Talk. Talk true."

They did warn you
"Talk. Talk true."

But it seemed like a verbal tic
"Talk. Talk true."

The blows came so fast
"Talk. Talk true."

You never had time to respond
"Talk. Talk true."

You just made to protect your head
"Talk. Talk true."

But they were indiscriminate
"Talk. Talk true."

About where the blows were inflicted
"Talk, Talk true"

The punishment was evenly distributed
"Talk. Talk true."

Dad chuckled after recounting their mantra
"Talk. Talk true."

But it wasn't with glee but irony. It was macabre
"Talk. Talk true."

He had borne the brunt of the soldiers' blows
"Talk. Talk true."

When they'd picked him up after the coup
"Talk. Talk true."

The human rights lawyer
"Talk. Talk true."

The august law professor
"Talk. Talk true."

The head of Special Branch
"Talk. Talk true."

Then, later, it was the turn of the police
"Talk. Talk true."

Before the trial
"Talk. Talk true."

During the trial
"Talk. Talk true."

And then death row
"Talk. Talk true."

Those years in limbo
"Talk. Talk true."

He never talks about it
"Talk. Talk true."

Well, would you?
"Talk. Talk true."

Some things are best left unsaid
"Talk. Talk true."

The only hint he's ever given
"Talk. Talk true."

These three words
"Talk. Talk true."

Mind you, his pedagogy stressed the importance of human rights
"Talk. Talk true."

He spent his life trying to redeem the security services
"Talk. Talk true."

But knew, full well, the kind of treatment meted out on a daily basis
"Talk. Talk true."

His mandate was reform
"Talk. Talk true."

It's hard to say that the battle was won.
"Talk. Talk true."

Even after all these years
"Talk. Talk true."

Brutality. The trail of tears
"Talk. Talk true."

It's hard to change institutions
"Talk. Talk true."

Human beings have the most perverse traditions
"Talk. Talk true."

Rituals and initiations
"Talk. Talk true."

Even today they all join in
"Talk. Talk true."

No questions asked
"Talk. Talk true."

It's an automatic reflex
"Talk. Talk true."

That's all you need to hear
"Talk. Talk true."

Bonding. Esprit de corps
"Talk. Talk true."

You're duty bound to join in
"Talk. Talk true."

Sure the poor sod might lodge a complaint
"Talk. Talk true."

But in the moment, he needs to be taught a lesson
"Talk. Talk true."

About truth and reconciliation
"Talk. Talk true."

And so God help you if you're ever facing an African prison
"Talk. Talk true."

For even in the most enlightened police station
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll get no sympathy
"Talk. Talk true."

Your station in life doesn't matter
"Talk. Talk true."

Big man. Small man. This is the police station
"Talk. Talk true."

Friday night, when the burglar is brought in
"Talk. Talk true."

Whether thief or completely innocent
"Talk. Talk true."

Having a bad day, mental health issues
"Talk. Talk true."

Caught in a dragnet. Arbitrary. Mistaken identity
"Talk. Talk true."

Failed to pay the bribe, argued with the officer
"Talk. Talk true."

You're wasting police time
"Talk. Talk true."

Police everywhere
"Talk. Talk true."

It's not a matter of bad apples
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll take the blows
"Talk. Talk true."

If you know what's good for you
"Talk. Talk true."

Eventually they'll lose interest
"Talk. Talk true."

But in the interim you'll have to bear witness
"Talk. Talk true."

An education of sorts
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll learn about time dilation
"Talk. Talk true."

The laws of physics
"Talk. Talk true."

Colliding bodies
"Talk. Talk true."

The uncertainties of biology
"Talk. Talk true."

Anatomy lessons
"Talk. Talk true."

Material science
"Talk. Talk true."

Fluid dynamics
"Talk. Talk true."

Human factors
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

The limits of religion
"Talk. Talk true."

The pain of loss
"Talk. Talk true."

Buyer's remorse
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

No one is coming
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

The thin blue line
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

And then finally you'll talk, and talk true.

police called in to student riots at legon

Talk True, a playlist

A playlist to soften the blows of providence. The watchword is reform. (spotify version)
digable planets


Poetry as soul insurance, for such is my asylum.

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of The Rough Beast.

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: April 16, 2021

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Weight of Ideas

They talk about a density of ideas
As if this is a thing that has weight

Well we don't suffer from a lack of such
Nor is there a dearth of pungent metaphors

For even in the darkness we hold on tight
And carry the load like the porters of old

Uncomplaining, contemplating recent history
Those lost decades consigned to collective amnesia

The density of our thought
Manifestations of ingenuity

The weight of our ideas
A concentrate of deft potency

We were never on the wrong side of history
It is only that our timeframe extends past your event horizon


Bartering for hours it seems, at the bend down market
The old man quietly observes the proceedings
Then gestures, as if to say,
"Be patient, just wait a minute"
Then he brings it out from the back
He knew what you needed


Heavyweight thought is our concision
Sublimation, our purifying distillation

Not a word more, a sublime concentrate
Deny that brevity is for the weak

Future markets priced by the ounce of reflection
Ideas as intellectual projectiles in conception

Mining our fields of thought
Weaponized extractive industries

Cross the technical support of trending interest
A paucity, the bitterness of imperfection


Such is the half-life, ultimately, of our navigation
That we traffic in concealment and revelation

From social interplay we gain direction
For we hold that markets are conversations

The process of consensus
The patience of conversation

The virtue of listening And truth and reconciliation

Our ideas weigh a ton
And are integral to our identity

The weight of ideas, the nuts and bolts
Such is the cement of society

Fishing Home by Kofi Nduro Donkor


After Jon Elster


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log. Concept: February 2, 2019; May 7, 2021

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 12 The Die is Cast)

Global narrative collapse... Part 12 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

XII. The Die is Cast

The hymn of the big wheel played as the review board gathered south of the river
Asase Yaa, finally fed up, had appealed to the ombudsman to take up the matter
For even the claims adjuster had limits to his authority: enter the Regulators.
A decision was made to allow in-flight enforcement actions to proceed, but no further

Still, the claims adjuster, practiced at these things,
   made a typically forceful presentation
He bypassed the import of Ananse the Spider and Sika's ploy of the indemnity provision
Leaving the three tribes bereft, they could only offer up suffering as their submission
Thus the regulatory review proceeded
   with its own cadence and inexorable deliberation

The claim was upheld on the narrowest of grounds,
   the ledger line of inequality
The claims adjuster had argued, with some success,
   about humanity's lack of probity
As Nyame's representative,
   the through line of his position had cut through
A closing ceremony of grief would surely ensue,
   at this point, premiums were due

The costs incurred applied even to the least of us
   as collateral damage
Albeit deliberate intent among many
   reduced the benefits of coverage
For want of a bolt,
   humanity had been forced to confront uncertainty
Such are the catastrophic wages of living without integrity

The die was cast, Dear Reader,
   and humanity was found wanting
The judgment read:
   "Soul insurance does not guarantee you'll avoid liability
It merely protects the bearer
   from the worst effects of life's adversity"
Quoth Ananse the spider,
   "It's a business, and I'm certainly not a charity"

vaccinate for victory


For the past twenty years, the phrase soul insurance has been percolating in my mindscape. I had a different interpretation than Angie Stone's original formulation, and the variations started to show up in my writings. Elliptical, I circled around it as the conception proved elusive. Eventually, while going back to basics, a throwaway sentence unlocked an approach to tackle it, the folktales I've embarked on.

This was the one that got away, 150 stanzas and 8,000 odd words later, the quick ditty that a stray phrase evoked became a recasting of sprawling world. The muse will what she wants and I dared not question her, for, indeed, the two weeks of fevered writing were an escape, a palate cleanser that I hope you've enjoyed. My self-imposed constraints mean that publication is often delayed and, in this case, it is an article of faith to expect that these tales would still resound well twenty months after they were conceived, and without the interactive feedback that they seemed to demand. Yet I adhere to Garcia Marquez's maxim that "Any idea which couldn't withstand a few decades of neglect is not worth anything". I have to trust that delayed gratification will not blunt my words, and that we can abide by the global pause.

As I write, Brazil, and now India, are having their turn as new epicenters of our covidious predicament. I'd rather be wrong, but it rather seems that the die is cast: global narrative collapse, the tale of the lost stories. I'll lay my cards on the table, I can only offer soul insurance as the way forward.

April 27, 2021

claims adjuster

I have just booked a trip to England. My ostensible purpose is to get a stamp in my passport that will keep my notional residency in Her Majesty's lands legitimate. I am hedging my bets against this American episode; the stamp is my soul insurance if you will. Refugees all, we in Africa are no strangers to dislocation, in many ways it is our close friend. As the song goes, wherever I lay my hat, that's my home.

Bags and Stamps
One cannot but stare at the trainwreck when it comes. But how does one equip oneself to face the abyss? Where does one buy soul insurance? In a dark time, perhaps social living is the best.

Of No Fixed Abode
Wist presents an opportunity for resolve, it is a brief respite in that moment as you gather yourself up for the next task, the next struggle. Wist is a flight to quality, a premium bond for these subprime times. Wist is soul insurance that actually pays you back when you file your later claims.

We can afford the taxes due on dividends in kind
For love is the defined benefit of soul insurance

Structural Adjustments
Nyame's claims adjuster resolves the matter with soul insurance

Nuts and Bolts

The Die is Cast, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

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 cautionary tale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: Parts 1-8 March 21 - 28, 2021; Parts 9-12 April 7-10, 2021

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Threat to Reality

"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Hyperbole much? Some turns of phrase that aim for the poetic
Instead land in the valley of the absurd as merely splenetic
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Even within the context, and knowing what was likely meant,
I don't think reality was ever worried about Trump. They'd never met.
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Reality has never been, nor will ever likely be
Threatened by a human being. Absurdity.
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
As I read old magazines written on the cusp of the last U.S. election
I found many Cassandras calling, and far too much inartful hand wringing
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Hatchet jobs by their intention and nature should be precise
With biting satire, the target should feel the sting of a sharp bite
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
And even if the intent is not satirical but merely that a savaging is due
Your entire argument, by this kind of rhetorical overreach, can incur a fatal wound
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
A threat to reality is a bridge too far, one should be mindful of such
Lest entire essays be easily dismissed with just two words: Hyperbole much?

making a big success in marriage


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

File under: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing log: May 6, 2021