Amabe

(for Nyawira Nderitu 1943 – 2017)

 

Taflase* Taflase Taflase taflase seven times

in this moment of mourning

on this day of memory,

I stand a trembling tongue

without the language

to echo across the void.

 

I must begin with those who died opposed,

towards a notion yet to be clear

who threw themselves back after watching their friends die.

Who left doors open at risk of murder.

Who left notes under mats.

Who bit down their history towards a future.

Who sacrificed, resented, repented, sacrificed.

And again.

 

I am still but an idea that I am yet to grasp,

And so I stand here,

on behalf of the half tongued

cut from the source

and without the language

to echo across the void.

 

And so Taflase, Taflase, Taflase again,

in this moment of mourning,

on this day of memory

I re-member

Those who began with others,

Who destroyed their (selves),

Who lived under consistent micro aggression,

Who checked their locks eight times a night,

Who apologized “they don’t mean it,”

Who raged silently into the night.

 

I call from the docks to a boatman.

I am but a weary traveler who searched for this place

through myth, legend and intuition –

chasing traces of it in half conversations.

Now I stand here, but the dock is empty,

the sea calm and the place in ruins.

I stand on the shore calling to a boatman,

I have heard only of Katsumi

who spoke to a prophet.

But I know there are more.

And so I call out

in the language I know

to the endless sea.

Taflase Taflase, Taflase seven times,

Please hear me.

 

I ask to be heard by those who were afraid,

Who acted out of fear and lived to regret their actions,

who betrayed, backstabbed, stole, manipulated, lied,

who Chased redemption, who further withdrew,

who folded themselves to fit into spaces that were designed for their expulsion,

who took advantage,

who settled for what they could get out of the situation.

 

In this moment of mourning

on this day of memory,

I call that a boatman may ferry those who now leave,

Who listened and misunderstood,

Who have marked distance,

Who watched as the dock was destroyed,

Who have mourned their own deaths,

Who stood, defiant even when the world wanted to erase them.

Who fought beyond amnesia – and only need re-memberance.

Bless the docks once more and take them.

Take them that they may know peace.

 

Taflase: is a polite preface to a serious, possibly unpleasant or even offensive statement. May be especially appropriate from a younger spaker addressing elders. The expression is found not only in Ewe but also Akan and Ga.

Amabe: Kisii word meaning to mourn

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