Agana’s writing is evidently influenced with an American style he unconsciously cultivated by reading many foreign poets. Sometimes, that was our conflict. I was pro-African in choice and writing while he wrote more accentuated and regal. The poem he’s allowed me to review today is one of his more pronounced diversions into some sort of British cockney or Caribbean creole. He wrote this poem at a sitting and ever since he read it to me in class, I have loved every single line of it. That was about eight years ago. I remember the look on the faces of the crew at Radio Univers when he read it there too. This is an amazing poem.
For Ghanaian Literature Week, (you can find all posts for the week aggregated here at Kinnareads) it is most appropriate that I highlight this budding (Agana, you’re budding until you publish, don’t throw up a storm already!!) gem who is one of the exciting poets I see on the next frontier of Ghanaian literature. He is a graduate of the University of Ghana and blogs at www.cerebralsparks.wordpress.com.
A Bird in Me Heart
There’s this here feeling me has in me bones,
Every time me sees this here lass,
And every time me hears those tones,
Of her sweet voice me breaks like glass.
So the streets me dares no longer walk,
But sits and cries on this here rock.
There’s this here itch me feels in me skin,
Every time she passes me by!
And me speaks the truth me tries to grin,
But runs away, says I.
So no longer t’ the park goes I,
But sits me down t’ cry.
So me old man sits me down one day and says;
‘Come off it, you’re a man now, Chum!’
But every time me sees her face,
Me heart beats like a drum.
Last Sunday morning mass,
She comes and sits reet next t’ me perch!
Now I don’t know where me gets the gas,
But next thing me knows, me’s runnin’, screamin’ out t’ church.
And now t’ whole town thinks me’s a right old bloke;
Yesterday me heard a lad say me’s an egg without a yolk.
So what can an old sailor say,
Who’s only wife, was the roarin’ ocean!
Me hopes me’ll speak t’ her one day,
But till then the pain’s me heart’s lotion.
Me ain’t felt nothin’ this way about nothin’ I say,
But there’s a bird in me heart, and it’s peckin’ me away!
This poem is a beauty. The story is warped in a satirical, elegiac intonation giving us a sort of an opportunity to both laugh at the writer as well as share his pain. The first stanza introduces us to the misery of our poet who says he has this feeling ‘in me bones’ (line 1) anytime he sees a certain lady; a ‘lass’ (line 2). Her voice is so sweet (line 4) that whenever he hears it, he ‘breaks like glass’ (line 4). This line uses the word ‘glass’ to allude to the fact that hearts get broken sometimes and the lady’s voice could both be so overpowering in emotion as well as be high in amplitude, enough to cause the shattering of that glass, which in this case, is our poet. His sorrow has caused him to abandon walking on the streets for fear he might see her, and instead sit ‘on this here rock’ (line 6) to cry.
In the second stanza, our poet confesses that, when he sees her, he feels ‘this here itch’ (line 7) in his skin. Note his constant use of the phrase ‘this here…’ since the first stanza. This gives us a sense of pointing, as though he is indicating the objects that he describes after the phrase. The effect that this achieves is that it throws us right into his situation and emotion. Where he feels an itch, we are tempted to feel same. So the second stanza tells us onwards that he ‘tries to grin/But runs away…’ (lines 9-10), so much that he has stopped visiting the park as well. He only reclines ‘t’ cry’ (line 12).
The next stanza sets up a host of images that make us both laugh and sorrow away for this our poet. His father – the ‘old man’ (line 13) – sits him down and tells him to man-up! Face this shyness, discomfort of seeing the lady and just be bold with how he feels. His father tells him ‘you’re a man now’ (line 14). But our poor poet cannot beat it! His ‘heart beats like a drum’ (line 16) whenever he sees this lady. He tells us how bad it was, when she sits next to him in church on Sunday, and ‘Now I don’t know where me gets the gas’ (line 19), he sees himself screaming and fleeing the church hall, to the amazement of all gathered. He goes on to say that the whole town now thinks he is a ‘a right old bloke’ (line 21), when only in this stanza, his father was just even now trying to convince him that he was a man. He has aged foolishly for his own silliness! A beautiful, beautiful piece!The final stanza tells us who our poet is! He is not exactly a young man but ‘an old sailor’ (line 23), ‘Who’s only wife, was the roarin’ ocean!’ (line 24). He looks forward to the day he will be bold enough to talk to her, but resigns to the fact that for now, his heart must bear the pain as a ‘lotion’ (line 26). He confesses that, regardless of the sturdiness we know of sailors, he has never felt anything so strong for anything, and wraps up by telling us that his present predicament is as a bird in his heart, ‘and it’s peckin’ me away!’ (line 28).
The beauty of this poem lies in so many things: the candour, the drama, the language and the untiring effort of an artist to paint for us a picture so vivid that we cannot but applaud him when he is done. Bravo, Agana!