How Poems Work #6 - Prince Mensah on Darko Antwi's "The last words of Aunt Araba"

The last words of Aunt Araba - Darko Antwi

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Kojo to put away the bottle
else akpeteshie will take a photo of him

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Birago not to put her head on her husband
for I have not seen a pillow in that man

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Asantewaa to knock at Esi's door
for she owes me five okra and an onion

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Ebo to dig a foot deep around the odum
for I have hidden dozens of stones

I am going..
when I am gone,
tell Kakraba not to marry from Manso-Krom
for their women are lions and scorpions

I am going...
when I am gone,
invite Kuntu and offer him some drink
tell him: he has my pardon over the land dispute

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Aba: I don't need her shadow at my funeral
for the arrows of her falsehood have crushed my soul

I am going...
when I am gone,
be faithful with your vows to Nananom
that you may have their blessing and avoid their wrath

I am going...
ah... oh... oh...

When I read poems such as Darko Antwi’s "The last words of Aunt Araba", my hopes surge for the rapid ascendancy of modern Ghanaian literature. This poem consists of eight quatrains and one couplet. "The last words of Aunt Araba" reminds me of the works of older poets like Brew, Okai and Anyidoho. There is a sense of urgency in a place of calm. These are the words of a dying woman who is attempting to keep her hopes and dreams (and fights) alive.

The first line of each stanza is a fading reminder that the speaker is losing the strength to speak, that time is running out. It is like someone or something is beckoning Aunt Araba to come over, similar to Gabriel Okara’s "The Call of the River Nun" which states that -

         each dying year
brings near the sea-bird call,
the final call that
stills the crested waves
and breaks in two the curtain
of silence of my upturned canoe.

The next three lines of each of the eight stanzas in Antwi’s poem contain instructions to conclude the speaker’s unfinished business in life. This is a poem of nakedness and we are voyeurs to the many crooks and curves of the human soul. Leopold Senghor’s "Black Woman" captures this kind of nakedness –

I sing your beauty that passes, the form
that I fix in the Eternal,

Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to
feed the roots of life.

Darko Antwi captures the perceptions, peeves and personality of the speaker in her succinct directives (and comments) to the nine people mentioned in the poem. There are four women (Birago, Asantewaa, Esi and Aba) and five men (Kojo, Birago’s husband, Ebo, Kakraba and Kuntu). Each person is entreated to take an action that will lead to a better result for all involved. One can deduce that the speaker, Aunt Araba, holds a matriarchal status in her society. She dishes out advice and warnings in what reads like a last will and testament. With so much salvaging to be done among those she is leaving, Aunt Araba’s predicament becomes like that of the speaker in Kofi Awoonor’s "Songs of Sorrow" –

Returning is not possible
And going forward is a great difficulty
The affairs of this world are like the chameleon’s feces
Into which I have stepped
When I clean it cannot go.
I am on the world’s extreme corner,
I am not sitting in the row with the eminent
But those who are lucky

I am going to delve into this poem by deconstructing it stanza by stanza, both to look more deeply into the poem, and to show the many intersections this poem shares with its predecessors written by the greats of African verse.


Stanza 1:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Kojo to put away the bottle
else akpeteshie will take a photo of him

In her first directive, Aunt Araba harps on personal responsibility, a critical and universal element to a successful life. She finds it a top priority to dish out a word of caution to Kojo about alcohol. He has to quit drinking or else akpeteshie will take a photo of him. For the non-Ghanaian, akpeteshie is the local alcoholic drink. It is cheap but has a corrosive effect on its drinkers. Heavy consumers of akpeteshie usually become physically unappealing, hence Aunt Araba’s warning that akpeteshie will take a picture of Kojo.

Aunt Araba is not only concerned about Kojo’s present state of alcoholism; she is also worried about the possibility of a disfigured future. It is interesting that she chooses to tackle alcoholism first. This might be due to the fact that alcoholism is a silent epidemic that is stealing a lot of dreams in our nations. Alcoholism stalls potential, rips families apart, and transmogrifies its users into physical and mental unattractiveness. Aunt Araba is concerned that the bottle can become the bane of Kojo’s existence and all he will be left with is a portrait taken by akpeteshie.

The sense of foreboding both in the speaker’s imminent death and Kojo’s alcoholism reflects similar sentiments expressed by Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Chapter Seven) –

King, if you eat it
You will weep for the abomination
Where White Ant installs king
Where Dust dances to the drums

There is a lingering suggestion in this stanza in that it is very likely that Kojo might not heed Aunt Araba’s warning, thus subjecting himself to the consequences of being an alcoholic.


Stanza 2:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Birago not to put her head on her husband
for I have not seen a pillow in that man

In her second directive, Aunt Araba talks about self-reliance among women. She becomes a marriage counselor, albeit a cynical one. Her advice is counter-intuitive – why shouldn’t a wife ‘put her head on her husband’? Isn’t that one of the many purposes of marriage? Aunt Araba’s reason is that she has ‘not seen a pillow in that man’. She sounds like a post-modern feminist, a realist with years of experience studying how some husbands will never become ‘pillows’ for their wives. Birago is warned not to seek comfort or security from her husband because, according to Aunt Araba, the man is incapable of providing that. This stanza is a clarion call to women, from an older African woman to younger ones, to stop depending on their husbands as ‘pillows’. It is a jolt to the status quo where the wife is expected to ‘put her head on her husband’, regardless of whether there is ‘a pillow in that man’ or not. Interestingly, Aunt Araba does not ask Birago to leave her husband; she only asks her to become independent.

With these few words, the poet probes into the hidden realities of a typical marriage. This stanza is an indictment against our culture’s stagnation of women’s potential and the subsequent juxtaposition with male nonchalance towards their needs. Sadly, being a woman herself, Aunt Araba can only dish out her point of view on her death. This is where she becomes valuable to everyone around her. This is where she receives rapt attention. Why doesn’t our society use the wit and wisdom of the many Aunt Arabas while they live? Perhaps Birago’s marriage is a microcosm of many marriages – even a reflection of Aunt Araba’s. The dying woman finds it imperative to ask for the discontinuation of marital dysfunction. Note that there is no word to a husband by the dying woman, no lingering love towards a lover. Araba is alone. Alone in life and death. Perhaps she never had ‘a pillow’ in her love life.


Stanza 3:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Asantewaa to knock at Esi's door
for she owes me five okra and an onion

In her third directive, Aunt Araba focuses on trustworthiness, even though she sounds petty and vindictive. She is trusting Asantewaa (a possible allusion to Yaa Asantewaa) to collect a debt of ‘five okra and an onion’, and trusting Esi to pay that debt. Note that in the two previous stanzas (and throughout the poem); Aunt Araba is not specific about the person who would be delivering her messages. However, in this stanza, she elects Asantewaa, presumably a no-nonsense and aggressive woman, to collect a debt. It is almost ridiculous when one considers the debt – ‘five okra and an onion’. Yet there might be an unstated reason behind such vindictiveness. Is Aunt Araba peeved at Esi because she is not by her death bed? Is she trying to expose Esi as someone who borrows and never pays back? Is she trying to make Esi as uncomfortable as she can, even from beyond the grave? Is Aunt Araba someone who never forgets (and forgives) anything?

There are things in one’s life that stick with us until death. Whatever Esi might have done to Aunt Araba – apart from borrowing ‘five okra and an onion’ – might have stuck too long on her mind. To have Asantewaa knock on Esi’s door to collect a debt of ‘five okra and an onion’ is actually problematic. Esi might find it an affront to her own character because, for all we know, she might have forgotten about that debt. Asantewaa, in executing a dying woman’s wishes, will be unrelenting and abrasive. This is a set-up to one bad argument or, even worse, a fight. Why is Aunt Araba producing acrimony where it did not exist?

Another look at this stanza reveals how things are different to different people. At first glance, one will brush Aunt Araba as vindictive. However, who knows, in her village, ‘five okra and an onion’ might be worth a lot and that it may be important for her to get the items back to her family. This stanza challenges our concept of what is worthy and what is not. To some, a debt of one million dollars is something you will instruct a person to collect. To Aunt Araba, the debt of ‘five okra and an onion’ is too important not to collect.


Stanza 4:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Ebo to dig a foot deep around the odum
for I have hidden dozens of stones

In her fourth directive, Aunt Araba is suddenly generous. In a quick turnaround, the supposedly vindictive Aunt Araba is giving Ebo ‘dozens of stones’. But isn’t she telling everybody that there are ‘hidden dozens of stones’ ‘a foot deep around the odum’? This is intentional. Aunt Araba is letting everyone know that Ebo has the right to access the treasure. However, if Ebo does not exercise that right, everyone knows where the treasure is. In the event of his reluctance to ‘dig a foot deep around the odum’, the stones could be used to benefit the community. Even though Ebo has been given a treasure trove, he has ‘to dig a foot deep around the odum’. Nothing ever comes easy. Even free things.

This stanza is an allegory for the state of modern Africa. Aunt Araba is a miniature Mother Africa and we are the collective Ebo. We sit on a continent that is blessed not only with ‘hidden dozens of stones’, but with every ingredient needed to build a prosperous future. However, most people do not want ‘to dig a foot deep around the odum’. Most people want shortcuts through get-rich-quick schemes, bribes, embezzlement, armed robbery, 419 scams et cetera. The reality is everyone in the world knows that Africa sits on more wealth than it can imagine. So if Africans are reluctant ‘to dig a foot deep around the odum’ in order to access their God-given wealth, the rest of the world is more than eager to do so.


Stanza 5:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Kakraba not to marry from Manso-Krom
for their women are lions and scorpions

The fifth directive deals with perceptions and names. The place, Manso-Krom, translates to ‘The Town of Litigations’. Aunt Araba does not want Kakraba to marry from that town because of its notoriety for having abrasive women.

Note that the speaker does not use the gender-appropriate word lioness for the women of Manso-Krom. They are portrayed as lions, as having masculine attributes such as control, aggression and violence. The depiction is of an obaa barima (a woman who behaves like a man). It is known that female scorpions kill their males after mating with them, an action similar to that of a black widow spider. Female scorpions are also known to eat their young when they are hungry. This image of self-centeredness troubles Aunt Araba. Bottom line, she has a problem with women who 1) do not act like women and 2) who misuse and discard men.

However, the question that rises immediately is about the accuracy in Aunt Araba’s perceptions. Certainly not all the women ‘are lions and scorpions’ as she alleges, but she prefaces her concerns with an established fact – the name of the town. Manso-Krom, the Town of Litigations. This adds credence to her harsh description of the women from that town. Or so it seems. It is interesting how the name of a place can color perceptions about people from that place. Africans living in other parts of the world have countless stories about this issue. People view Africa through the prism of films such as Shaka the Zulu or The Lion King and documentaries about hunger-stricken communities. These images give people a certain level of “expert” knowledge (sarcasm intended) about all things African. Of course, perception is reality, albeit a distorted one.

In this stanza, Aunt Araba, once again, demonstrates her human limitations. She is guilty of generalization, based on name and reputation. However, she is not alone in that guilt. Our world is still wading through the swamp of intense schism, ranging from tribalism to racism. All schism emanates from misguided interpretations of names and reputation. Nonetheless, this stanza raises a lot of questions. Is Manso-Krom a nickname because of its women or does the name predict the conduct of those women? Why is Kakraba interested in marrying from a town whose ‘women are lions and scorpions’? Is Kakraba a foolhardy Lothario or is it a secret about the town that Aunt Abena dishes out to him? Why is Aunt Araba, the post-modern feminist in stanza two, undermining the worth of women from Manso-Krom by describing them as ‘lions and scorpions’? Is it because she is preventing a reverse situation where the husband will not find ‘a pillow’ in his wife?

Aunt Araba is clear in employing the proverb – what is good for the goose is good for the gander. To a typical African woman, liberation does not mean role reversal – it only means that each person gets the maximum benefit and respect from their relationship. To Aunt Araba, the situation in Manso-Krom represents an anomaly that does not have to be encouraged. As a matriarch, she is unequivocal in her stance. She will not recommend women who ‘are lions and scorpions’ to her male kith and kin for marriage.


Stanza 6:

I am going...
when I am gone,
invite Kuntu and offer him some drink
tell him: he has my pardon over the land dispute

The sixth stanza is about reconciliation. However, it quickly raises the question as to why Aunt Araba is vindictive against Esi in stanza three over ‘five okra and an onion’ but is conciliatory to Kuntu ‘over the land dispute’? At first glance, it is not fair as we compare ‘five okra and an onion’ to land. Yet, this is a glimpse into the inexplicable, and sometimes hypocritical, nature of the human being. It is not about fairness; it is about favor.

We see more of that inconsistency when Aunt Araba tells her listeners to ‘invite Kuntu and offer him some drink’. Isn’t she the same Aunt Araba who raked Kojo through the coals for being in love with the bottle? Why is the standard different when it comes to Kuntu? Reading between the lines, Kojo is a younger man (perhaps, her son or nephew) and Kuntu might be a co-equal in age (a brother or cousin). The land dispute is a dead giveaway because it connotes a blood relationship, which is usually a basis for shared land in most African communities.

In this stanza, Aunt Araba is magnanimous, extending a ‘pardon over the land dispute’. She is smart in doing so because she intends to restore familial unity after her death. There is a reason for that. It is because her kith and kin of her age group become her children’s parents by default. As a good mother, she will be doing her progeny a favor by not letting them inherit her personal litigations.


Stanza 7:

I am going...
when I am gone,
tell Aba: I don't need her shadow at my funeral
for the arrows of her falsehood have crushed my soul

The seventh stanza is about vengeance. Aunt Araba has a bone to pick with a second woman, Aba. Like Esi in the third stanza, Aba has to pay a price for offending Aunt Araba. In Aba’s case, it is for lying and gossiping. The price is a ban from attending Aunt Araba’s funeral.

Funerals are important events in African communities. They are part family/friend reunions and part board meetings. Attendance or absence has huge implications. Whenever one is unable to attend the funeral of a close relative or friend, one is considered a ‘sansanni’, a useless person whose funeral does not merit attendance. For Aunt Araba to tell Aba that she does not want ‘her shadow at my funeral’ is an effort to isolate Aba and make her subject to the ire of the community. By asking Aba to stay away her funeral, Aunt Araba is severing all ties. It will be a safe guess to deduce that Aba is Aunt Araba’s daughter. There are three reasons that support my guess. Araba is a derivative name from Aba, suggesting a mother who named her daughter after herself. The second reason is that the act of banning people from funerals is usually done by parents to punish children who did not treat them right. The third reason is the level of pain. Note that Aba’s punishment is the harshest of them all. Esi, perhaps, after huffing and puffing over ‘five okra and an onion’ might still attend Aunt Araba’s funeral. But Aba does not have a choice.

It seems Aunt Araba is still in pain from ‘the arrows of her [Aba’s] falsehood’. Pain, any kinds of pain, caused by close relatives, sting more than those caused by strangers. To have a daughter, or anyone for that matter, rain ‘arrows of her falsehood’ is certainly a crushing experience. Aunt Araba is going to the other world with a peeve against Aba. In West African culture, this implies a curse, an irrevocable stain on Aba’s life. To Aunt Araba, Aba has become a persona non grata, something of semblance to the description in Christopher Okigbo’s "Love Apart" –

And we are now shadows
That cling to each other
But kiss the air only.


Stanza 8:

I am going...
when I am gone,
be faithful with your vows to Nananom
that you may have their blessing and avoid their wrath

This stanza concentrates on reverence for the divine. Aunt Araba states the necessity of being ‘faithful with your vows to Nananom’. Nananom, which translates to ‘The Kings’, is a euphemism for gods and departed spirits. Here Aunt Araba becomes a medium between the living and the departed, a role defined with excellence in Senghor’s "Night of Sine" –

Let me inhale the smell of our Dead, let me collect and repeat their living voice, let me learn
To live before I sink, deeper than the diver, into the lofty depth of sleep.

This is the final piece to the mosaic that is Aunt Araba’s life. She wants those who remain in this life after her to do the right things so that ‘you may have their blessing and avoid their wrath’. Among several tribes in Ghana (and Africa, for that matter), one’s success or failures are believed to be intrinsically linked to either the blessings or wrath of Nananom.

Aunt Araba uses Biblical allusion in this stanza as it echoes the sentiments in Ecclesiastes 5: 4 – 7 -

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

The warning that Aunt Araba extends to her listeners is to walk their talk. As she has proven throughout the poem, she is a woman of few words, moving from subject to subject with clarity even as her time on earth comes to a close.

In this stanza, we experience the frailty of the human experience and the dependence on external things to validate that experience. We also see the divine as the unseen unifier of human divergence. What sets stanza eight apart from the rest is that its message is universal. It lacks the specificity that is rife in previous stanzas. Aunt Araba’s advice, like the rain-water in Wole Soyinka’s "Dedication" is -

                                  the gift
Of gods ---- drink of its purity, bear fruits in season.

Fruits then to your lips: haste to repay
The debt of birth. Yield man-tides like the sea
And ebbing, leave a meaning of the fossilled sands.

Darko Antwi uses this stanza as a sleight-of-hand to restore Aunt Araba’s image as a devout individual. It is effective because suddenly we see a woman who is fixated on cultural continuity and the maintenance of divine relations. No one (in her community) will have a problem with her directives in stanza eight. Aunt Araba’s image is salvaged by her appeal to the senses of the majority. This raises several questions such as these: Is the individual vindicated by towing the line of the majority? Doesn’t this sudden change in tone undermine Aunt Araba’s contrarian image built in stanzas one through seven? Is Aunt Araba trying to curry the favor of Nananom before she even joins them? Is there a specific way to exercise faith in order to get results?

Through the first seven stanzas, we have seen Aunt Araba through many prisms (some flattering, others not-so-flattering). This eighth stanza depicts her as a devotee to the ways and customs of her people. She is revolutionary in asking Birago to find independence from her husband but reserved by asking Kakraba not marry women from Manso-Krom. She is hard rock and soft wind. She does not forgive Esi’s debt of food items but she pardons Kuntu over a land dispute. However, in the end, she is a woman who wants a good life – for herself and her family. She wants to be remembered for something. As the sands in her hourglass drip, Aunt Araba finds it her final duty to connect the people she is leaving to those she is about to meet. In this stanza, her personal issues become secondary to the issue of respect for tradition. She becomes like the speaker in Senghor’s "The Message", a messenger to the tribe from Nananom –

I left my warm meal and the handling of many disputes.
Wearing nothing more than a pagne for the dewy mornings,
I had only words of peace as protection and to open every
road.
And I too traversed rivers and forests full of dangers
Where vines hung more treacherous than snakes.
I went among people who would easily let fly a poisoned
greeting.
But I held on the sign of recognition
And the spirits watched over my breath.


Stanza 9:

I am going...
ah... oh... oh...

In this stanza we witness death. We hear Aunt Araba as she drifts into the icy hands of death. There is a tone of painful regret in her ‘ah... oh... oh...’. From the previous stanzas, there was a sense of unfinished business. Perhaps that was the source of regret for this woman. Yet, death comes to us all. It is the most certain appointment on the calendar of our lives. Aunt Araba lived a life of contradictions, as most of us do. Her last words summarize those contradictions but through it all, we discover a person. We discover a beautiful soul, we experience the transition between life and death. Okigbo’s "The Stars Have Departed" depicts this scene -

the sky in monocle
surveys the world under
The stars have departed
and I – where am I?
Stretch, stretch, O antennae,
to clutch at this hour,
fulfilling each moment in a
broken monody

Even though Aunt Araba is passionate about issues that come with being alive, Aunt Araba is alone in her descent into the hands of Death. She must bear that burden alone. That is why in the ninth stanza there is no directive to 'tell' anyone what to do. There are no more words, no more bones to pick or stones to share, only silence to capture the finality of death. At this point of the poem, David Diop’s "The Renegade" resonates well –

Let these words of anguish keep time with your restless
Step –
Oh I am lonely so lonely here


***********************************************************


"The last words of Aunt Araba" is a poem about seeing an individual vis-a-vis the community in which they live. From the first to ninth stanza there is an ongoing conversation centered on what the speaker has to offer her community and what that community has to do in order to make her happy, as captured in these ten statements:

• Kojo has to quit alcoholism
• Birago has to quit being dependent on her husband
• Birago’s husband has no capacity to provide comfort
• Asantewaa has to collect on a debt
• Esi has to pay that debt
• Ebo has to dig for hidden treasures
• Kakraba has to rescind from his decision to marry from a particular town
• Kuntu has received pardon over a land dispute
• Aba has to stay away from Aunt Araba’s imminent funeral
• Everyone has to be faithful to tradition

Note that everything has to be done when the speaker, Aunt Araba, is dead and gone. The most active verb in this poem is to tell. To tell with the sense of resignation that Awoonor’s "Songs of Sorrow" espouses –

Tell them their house is falling
And the trees are in the fence
Have been eaten by termites:
That the martels curse them.
Ask them why they idle there
While we suffer, and eat sand,
And the crow and the vulture
Hover always above our broken fences

The first time I read this poem, I was quickly reminded of its similarity to the hit list that King David, on his deathbed, gave to Solomon in 1 Kings 2:1-9. On that list, people had to be disposed of, while others were to be promoted. Likewise, in this poem, some people are warned, some are shamed, some are pardoned, and the rest are given either a pardon or a gift. Why is this the case? Why won’t Aunt Araba allow her issues to go to the grave with her? Why is she using her imminent demise as a trump card to drag the nine people on a guilt trip to do her wishes?

Some of Aunt Araba’s wishes are petty and vindictive, while others are subversive to the happiness of their recipients. Throughout the poem, there is a bequeathment of treasure to only one person. Even though the poem does not elaborate on why Ebo was the only person to receive the ‘hidden dozens of stones’, it is baffling as to why Birago with a husband with no ‘pillow’ in him is not given anything? Or why Esi’s debt of ‘five okra and an onion’ is not forgiven? Or why Kuntu is forgiven over the land dispute? Through the tapestry of her warnings and wishes, we see Aunt Araba as a complicated character. A woman who means well in one stanza but is mean in the next one. A woman who advises one woman to be self-reliant but warns her male kin not to marry self-reliant women. A woman who will not forgive a debt of ‘five okra and an onion’ but will give another person a gift of ‘hidden dozens of stones’. A woman who forgives someone she has a land dispute with but will not forgive someone who lied about her. One of the many ironies in this poem is Aunt Araba calling out Manso-Krom for its lion-and-scorpion women whereas she is clearly a lioness and a scorpion herself. However, Aunt Araba, through catharsis, offloads the residual speed, power and weight on her heart. By doing this, she becomes 'weightless' like the butterfly, ready to enter the next phase. She reckons that each phase of existence requires us to experience tabula rasa, a clean slate, in order to come into synchronicity with requirements for that new phase. As Achebe mentions in "The Butterfly" -

Speed is violence
Power is violence
Weight is violence

The butterfly seeks safety in lightness
In weightless, undulating flight

Death has no porters for human baggage. We leave our qualms, quarrels and questions at the border of life and death. We come into life empty, we go into death empty. Aunt Araba’s last words are her own frantic efforts to become as empty as possible, to be ready for the journey beyond.

The contradictions paint a painfully human portrait of Aunt Araba. This is a contrast from the portrait of the deceased individual in the poet’s other seminal poem, "The Burial of St. Domeabra", which I had the opportunity to analyze in a previous “How Poems Work”. In that poem, no ill was spoken of the dead man because it was considered unacceptable. However, Aunt Araba, en route to her demise, incriminates her flawed humanity by having her warnings and wishes recorded. Is the poet subtly alluding to the proverb – silence is golden, speech is silver? Is Aunt Araba doing her community any good by leaving with ‘a bang’, or would she have done better service to her own memory by not saying a word? The more we get to know Aunt Araba, the more we understand the wisdom encapsulated in Achebe’s "Knowing Robs Us" –

Knowing robs us of wonder.
Had it not ripped apart
the fearful robes of primordial Night
to steal the force that crafted horns
on doghead and sowed insurrection
overnight

"The last words of Aunt Araba" is a glimpse into metadecisions of a tradition-minded, family-oriented African woman. This poem’s strength lies in its unapologetic realism. There is no effort to sanitize Aunt Araba’s legacy – it is presented as is – you take it or leave it. Darko Antwi has given us a snapshot of a life that could be like ours or our mothers’ or our aunts’. This poem is a dance between mystery and meaning. Its central theme is about becoming better, even though some of the speaker’s wishes are bitter. This is certainly a smorgasbord of love and hate, generosity and vindictiveness, worry and warnings and all things in between. It reminds us of us – the double standards, the favoritism, the overtly intrusive concerns and any kind of disposition that positions us to play God in other people’s lives. Like the speaker in Kwesi Brew’s "The Mesh", Aunt Araba is resolute that -

in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.

In the end, she is a human being. Human in her criticisms and concerns. Human in her foibles and failures. Humanized by death.

2 comments:

Darko Antwi said...

This is incredible! I have learned something I never thought of, at the time of writing "The last words of Aunt Araba"

Prince, you've written something great to confound my humble poem. The marathon of thematic comparison with the legendary poems is praiseworthy. Savory are the words you choose, and digestible are the tenses you deliberate. When poetry is appreciated as you do, who would not find it interesting?

Thank you, God bless you. And welldone, sir.

Prince Mensah said...

Darko, it is my honor to review splendid poetry such as yours. Whenever I read your works, I am always challenged to become better at what I do.

May 2013 be the year of more superb poetry at OGOV!

Blessings