Monday, December 17, 2012

20 Children

Now We Are Six

When I was one, I had just begun.
When I was two, I was nearly new.
When I was three, I was hardly me.
When I was four, I was not much more.
When I was five, I was just alive.
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six
now and forever.

        - A.A. Milne

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spirit of Unity - from Ghana

Phoebe, the poet who is taking a gap year before leaving Ghana for university, returns to us with a poem inspired by the death of her nation's president.

This poem is timely, not because of John Atta Mills' passing (which occurred in July of 2012), but because Ghana has just completed a peaceful election and named John Dramani Mahama as its new leader.

Ghana holds a lauded place in post-colonial African history.  One of the few countries to find political stability after imperial powers released their grip, the country is very proud to be free and self-governed.  Each election since 1957 has served to establish a stabilizing democracy.

The journey has not been trouble-free, and John Dramani Mahama's recently published memoir "My First Coup d'Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa" speaks to challenging times.

But Phoebe's poem, which has shades of Walt Whitman's "Oh Captain, My Captain" is a lovely elegy for a leader she admired.

10th August 2012: 
Tunes of the Atentebbe*

the whole of Ghana mourns to the tunes of the atentebbe,
 hear the dirge that wafts through the air,
the mood is somber; there is mourning everywhere,
the nation is at a standstill; our president is dead,

even the trees are clad in black and red,
in the spirit of grieving the dead,
chief mourners are over-playing melodrama in their show,
even your rivals have lowered their heads,

for your sake, we have joined our hands in grief,
for a while, we have put our dirty politics to sleep,
together, with one heart, we will weep,
hot, and heavy tears for the cherished memories we keep,

Even in death, we are possessed with your spirit of unity, Damirifa due*, until we meet in eternity.

* Atentebbe- A wind instrument of cultural significance, often played on the occasion of one’s death.
*Damirifa due- An expression of one’s condolences in the Twi, an Akan dialect

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Seven Letter Stranger

The underground, New York City me is a jaded straphanger who rarely makes conversation or even eye contact with my fellow subway riders.  
When I first moved here I loved people watching while commuting. I surreptitiously studied those who sat across from me, read books and magazines over their shoulders, and shamelessly eavesdropped on "private" conversations.  

Over time, however, I stopped paying attention to the details of my world.  As a teacher, I would grade papers while squished between sleepy travelers, and when I had no deadlines to meet I think I just daydreamed.

But now? Now I have Scrabble. With a hunched back and a furrowed brow, I lean over my iPhone, compete with my computer foe (he calls himself CPU and I swear he makes up words), and I shut out the rest of the world.  If Johnny Depp sat next to me these days, I wouldn't notice him.

But, as it turns out, those people I used to study are peeping over my shoulder and reading my words.  While waiting for the 2 train at the 14th St. station last week, I was startled when a woman who looked a lot like Eryka Badu leaned into my left ear and said, "reverie".  

Actually, she said it twice.  I ignored her the first time.

"Reverie," she said.
"I don't have a 'y'" I responded as I searched the screen for a letter I may have overlooked.   "You can spell it with an 'ie'.  It's a seven letter word.  I play a lot of Scrabble."   She pointed to the place on my virtual board where I needed to arrange my letters.  As she stood up and gathered her things she admitted,  "It's embarrassing, but I do play it a lot.  It's kind of an addiction."

And as Eryka's doppelganger boarded the downtown 1 train I crushed CPU with one, fanciful move.

I don't need Words with Friends, I've got New York City.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Birthday Girl

Today is my mom's birthday.

She one of those unique adventurers who seeks and often invents challenges for herself.  Before marrying my dad, she traveled to Ireland and stunned all of our relatives with her scandalous mini-skirt, and just two years ago she flew to Ghana and spent a week with me at the SOS Village in Tema.

With a PhD in Education, she taught school until she and my dad decided to move from Montana to California to attend law school.

Thus far, she's been a nun, a teacher, a lawyer, an investor, and a telephone operator.

Born and raised in Butte, Montana, she's never lost the true character of a feisty Mining City girl.    I don't know anyone who enjoys good books, political debates, and red wine more than Mary Kay.

She and her three brothers are planning to meet up in Vegas later this month.  They will be seeing some shows, but the true goal is to play some slots.  She will win big.  She always does.