The slow heart is the world’s curing herb

“An ancient poet from my tradition said, ‘I have something to say. I will say it before death comes. And if I don’t say it, let no one say it for me. I will be the one who will say it.’” These are among the last words the incredible Ghanaian poet and author Kofi Awoonor (1935-2013) spoke in a master class he led as part of the 2013 Storymaja Festival in Kenya. The next day, he was killed in the attack at Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi along with dozens of other people. There are so many of his beautiful, biting poems I could post here, but here is the one that’s lingered with me this morning…


“If It Were Within Your Power”

The slow heart is the world’s curing herb:
Your palm trees will prosper
but you will die of thirst
perhaps some of you will remember
the time you swore your oath
when your hearts wandered
among lonely hills:
death’s tentmakers are alert
to plant the planks
and place you on the swings:
Master, if it were within your power
to receive live children only
if it were within your power
to be the oarsman for the travellers,
You will do it: you will do it.


from Night of my Blood