Thursday 23 February 2023

Three Poems and Four Tanka Poems by Gabriel Awuah Mainoo





i know─ like head,

tongue is listening.


the same way eye remembers

a warm psalm jerking into the fan blades.


remembers death;

this skin’s assailant

hovering about the spirit’s swamp.


the carrion flies

are circling, gnawing deep

into the scarred place.


listening means you are talking

to an empty side-walk

where the tar is searing under your feet.


you jump.




even now you are larger;

look like something that is not you;

a stranger in blue threadbare blouse,

half green hat, kente slacks &

a bleeding crab coaxed to your knuckles.



Relieving the soul from its winter

is it the ache of 300,000 bodies

icing up your cranium?

to release the soul from its winter

you'll need a tune

gentle as a baby's breath

permeating the body.

6/ you stand in an exit

wider than a window then

shout, shout, shout/

5/ at sunset turn on the stereo

the first music in allegro

to warm up the body/

4/ the last in andante

slowly lulling the body to its innocence

then sing out the strife/

3/ the only remedy to

the soul's leprosy

is more dance. dance, dance, dance/

2/ you'll need the purity of rain

trickling down the olive tree

to cleanse you/

1/ at the waxing of moon

wrap yourself in a sackcloth &

rest, then at sunrise

6/ stand in an exit wider

than a window, with thanksgiving &

praise, praise, praise/




for Cecilia Ama Agyeiwaa


you went out of the gateless house, stumbled

into fangs of the icy fog but I rescue you in an

old photo-frame & clothe you in a cosy poem.

is that your voice clattering against

the swishing bough? i am listening

to the silence in the lessons of journeys

of how leaves wear green caftans in the morning

& at recess, surrender to earth & sunset. i am listening

carefully to the rustle─ it is

just an old wind giving this moment a name. like

how you remember each deluge by colour. how

you keep record for red,

for the brown blotches on your sternum, how

for nights you floundered like a limb pirouetting in flame.


those days i tried to save you but, my

knuckles were numb in your ache─ forgive me

a child is the sizzling breath when a mother is drowning.

i unstitch the shining feather from

the hem of your sepia slit─ forgive me

everything beautiful is taken for the living. i am

sending you away with water, to make you

understand loss is a vase holding abundance

of memory. here’s a skiff.

the eyes for paddle. to the distance.





finding the path

to the slave cemetery

twilight jog

following fresh toads prints

at the crossroads



long shadows

in dreadful echoes


the sun sneaks home

through the cedar trees



shooting star

darts into the sea

the slave boy

searches the way home

in the line of rainwater



howling sea

chorusing in the eventide

i learn to sing

‘‘o great God sees

what the white man does…’’



Gabriel Awuah Mainoo is a Ghanaian creative practitioner & author of 5 books of poetry. Mainoo is the winner of the 2021 Africa Haiku Prize, 2022 Singapore Poetry Prize, 6th Ghana Association of Writers Literary Awards (Poetry), 2022 Samira Bawumia Literature Prize (poetry), 2021 LFP/ RML/ Library of Africa and the African Diaspora chapbook winner among others. He’s a recipient of the 2022 West Africa Writers Residency. Mainoo’s craft can be found in London Reader, Olongo Africa, the other side of hope, Wales Haiku Journal, EVENT, Africa Haiku Journal, Prairie Fire, Best New African Poets Anthologies (2018, 2019, 2020), among others.


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