‘For Bessie Head’ by Ama Ata Aidoo

The following was written by Ama Ata Aidoo in 1988.

For Bessie Head

To begin with
there’s the small problem of address:

calling you
by the only name some of us
knew you by,

hailing you by titles
you could not possibly
have cared for,

referring you to
strange and clouded
origins that eat into
our past our pain
like prize-winning cassava tubers in
abandoned harvest fields…

Some of us never ever met you.

And who would believe
that but those who know
the tragedies of our land
where
non-meetings,
visions unopening and other such
abortions are
every day reality?

To continue a
confession of sorts,

‘Miss Head’ will just not do
‘Bessie’ too familiar
Bessie Head,

your face swims into focus
through soft clouds of
cigarette smoke and from behind the
much much harder barriers erected by some
quite unbelievable
20th. century philosophy,

saying more of
your strength
than all the tales
would have us think.

For the moment,

we fear and
dare not accept that
given how things
are,

poetry almost becomes
dirges and
not much more.

But
we hold on to knowing
ourselves as daughters of
darklight women
who are so used to Life
– giving it
feeding it –

Death
was always
quite unwelcome;
– taking them by surprise –
an evil peevish brat
to be flattered,
cleaned
oiled
pomaded
over-dressed and perfumed…

We fear to remember:
fatigued as we are by so much
death and dying and
the need to bury and
to mourn.

Bessie Head:
such a fresh ancestress!

If you chance
on a rainy night
to visit,

if you chance
on a sunny day
to pass by,

look in to see
– how well we do
– how hard we fight
– how loud we scream

against the plots
– to kill our souls our bodies too
– to take our land, and
– feed us shit.

Come
benevolently,
Dear Fresh Spirit,

that rejoining
The Others,
you can tell them
now more than ever,

do we need
the support
the energy

to create
recreate and
celebrate…

nothing more
absolutely
nothing less.

– by Ama Ata Aidoo

With permission from the poet and from An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems, Dangaroo Press, 1992

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8 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Ufeministi and commented:
    A is for Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghanaian poet. Her other major works include hanaian professor, author, playwright and poet. Her major works include Anowa (1970) which is attached, No Sweetness Here (1970), Our Sister’s Killjoy (1977), and Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (1977

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