Elmina Castle*

By L.S. Mensah

It has been the fashion
That on festival days our old men
Smoke the grief out of clay pipes,
Passed from mouth to mouth,
Exchanging snuff and puff as if
They were gossip beads

But all has not been well;
Not for a while.

A very long time ago
The Unmentionable
Came to stay
Even the ritual hyssop bath
Cannot disengage its scent.

In the refractive shimmer of Atlantic
Brine we carve the residual grief
Into portion sizes, so we can swallow –
Bones and all.
Down on the sea floor, yellow-green
Seaweed and mermaids clad in sequins
Weep – each knows it is not a good
Omen to see the other’s reflection
In the faint light.

Every passing hurricane
Is a blood clot shrieking for souls
Every surf that breaks is the sweat
That cuffed itself to the ankle bone
Of an implicated Atlantic
When, once upon a time,
A continent plucked its own hairs.
Today your cannons, facing the sea,
Register protests against the spray,
Against the onslaught of baldness

Every heaving wave is a clot
Of memory, looking to make
Landfall, on a coastline garnished
With undersea ghosts
Waiting to lure the traveller
Into history’s gyre

Elmina
Was ever there a time
When all was well?
I would like to know,
If only to hang up
My goatskin bag of hope.

* This poem was originally published in August 2009. Poetry is timeless.
* Want more? Read L.S. Mensah’s Gambaga

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