The Sierra Leone Web

  Ambrose Massaquoi is an Honorary Fellow of Writing of the University of Iowa, U.S.A. His poems and short stories, which mainly deal with the socio-politics of Sierra Leone, have appeared in Sierra Leonean and international publications. He currently lives in the Philippines, but will soon be resident in Lagos, Nigeria.  


Funk in Freetown

Ears wake wide open like
Windows in the morning
Tiptoe as if late for Gelede* dance
To snoop into Harmattan
For news fresh as rumors of Rebel War

Emotions erupt into sweat like high noon
Beneath elephant heads of rebel ravages
Peace of minds lift into flight like
Blinds at windows wide open to
Harmattan late in December

Hearts drop to floors as night falls
Funk in shadows of board windows and
Country-cloth curtains
Sleepless to cease
The instant Kalashnikovs crack Harmattan
With sputters of rebel Lion in town

*A masquerade of the Fourah Bay Krios


"This poem celebrates Dr. James Jonah's contribution to the establishment of democracy in Sierra Leone." -AM

Sung for Jonah

Voice vibrating the
Tongue of the
Town tom-tom

Voice vibrating in the
Tunnel of the
Town crier's tongue

Voice—image of seaside
Stone that breaks the
Backbones of waves

Kneebone of elephant
That damages the
Hyena's teeth

Voice of a prophet
Voice to the people
Voice from God who speaks &

Knife cuts

Cutting across steeps
Along the peal of drums
To distant villages

Collecting a country
To reclaim the
Footprints of its future

Its present
Its past
Its eternity

Voice of a prophet
From the testicles
Of timeless oracles

Yielding to
The people the
Voice of God


"Dedicated to Dora—an infant grocer in Freetown" - AM

En You Ge De Voice

a ge de peppe a ge de sol a ge de yabas a ge de sweet sugar

To your voice
The junk seller's bell
In your throat
Hollering Bigmarket
On your head
Relations fasten for survival

The slave-driver's claw
In your blood
Still shadows spiders
On the edge of a broom
40 years in the civil service
And a crop of cobwebs
In dreams condemned
To show for it

The slave
Stranded in a fallopian imbroglio
Has cranked out a football team at 28
Now her dreams stay home
To wipe the diarrhea
Of a life ventricose
With malnutrition

And you…

You pitch your voice
The pitchfork of a
Hopeless labor
Restless in your throat
To seduce Sun to
Toss you a dream in their favor

a ge de peppe a ge de sol a ge de yabas a ge de sweet sugar

En you ge de voice


The Plague Advances (for Syl Cheney-Coker)

women who have drunk bucketsful of water
now stampede the atlantic for their holyman
the prophet
their illuminati
desperation barking through the stonewalls of their gonads
desert discharging ordure to the point of
delirium in their chronic chancres

from the oceanfloor to meet them at the point of their plague
he comes forth
their holyman
the pro
dripping holywater
under sweat of estrus
luminous from bermuda's triangle with semen of
sharks seething in his prescriptions

each woman offers redredwine for his meditation
each offers 1 bagrice 1 drumoil 1 piececloth for his inspiration
and from fetishes of raweggs and redcloth
he makes his monolithic blacksoap emerge from under his redfrock

seamen stare as women who have drunk bucketsful of water scoop his
semen in buckets to burgeon the monumental
ghoststones of their catacombs
of their tombs
of their wombs
and their holypro
their bodhisattva
chanting abracadabra
steams off in ecstasy to make his yang ubiquitous in atlantis

now from the hydrotherapy o Cheney my soothsayer
throbbing to the rhythm and blues of
seawaterful of sharks in their chancreso Cheney they stream back
women who have drunk bucketsful of water stream back
to sleep with men who have died of gangrene


No Beautiful Woman

Sticker in a taxi
Black, bold on rainbow

I shift the phrase
Like tiles in Scrabble
On the rack of my brain
Trying to spell SENSE

On the dashboard
I spell and check into
The lexicon of truth
The adage is a winnow
With windows in it

I retrieve my tiles
And note FALLACY
In the files


Sleepless in America

I dreamt sleep in the USA
To perch on the roadside
Where the blaze of Sundance
Has not consumed the corn

On the roadside
In the corn
The scheme of Sun
Is dance of sickle
In my eyes

That immemorial
Sycophant of Sun is
Fishhook in the flesh
Of my sleep

Sun jerks the hook
Sickle slashes skin
Down my spine
Tears sleep
From my dream

And I am forced to backslide
To tears

Back into the blaze of Sundance



I am Bo
The Potter's Clay
Crafted to cradle
The Prototype of
THEPEOPLE's indomitability

Those without my spirit
          THEPEOPLE is my spirit
Catch the dysentery of
Fear of death
At the blast of my name

I am Bo
The tigerroar of Poro
Giving birth to
THEPEOPLE's power in a
Sacred bush

None not of my spirit can touch
The private parts of my
Sacred labor and live
No, not one invader can smell
The blood of my childbirth
And live to tell it

THEPEOPLE is that labor
The birth pangs of my destiny
The sweat of my sustenance
The blood of my self-sacrifice
To deliver my bloodline
From degenerates

Let degenerates come
O let the RUF come
With rough tactics
Let them come
With slaughter and despoliation
Let them come

Qaddaffi trained
Taylor paid
Sankoh led
Real rebels
Let them all come

If truly truly
They know they weren't
Born with a mother's curse upon their heads
Let them come

If truly truly they know a
Mother gave birth to them
Let them come to meet me
Face to face

If truly truly they know they have
Testicles of a man like me
Let them come to meet me
Man to man

I draw a line in the land
And dare them to cross it
I hold up two hands full of sand
And dare them to bat one down

I am Bo
Their miry clay
The slippery soil to the
Waterhole which
Rivers of rebels and renegades
Cannot cross

THEPEOPLE is that waterhole
Open mouth of crocodile
Into which rebels and renegades dive
Body, soul and spirit

Hear this and know
You who extol
          With pee of fear
          Trickling down your legs
Atrocities of the RUF

Go back to 1977
You who broadcast that
Life has been hacked in the face
With a machete
You who rumor that our mother
Has been burst and dismembered with
RPGs and GPMGs
You whose aortas swell and explode
Heads and tails of the sun
Believing a dark drama
Stage-managed by the BBC

I say go back to history
You whose clay-pots of cool hearts
Have been kicked and burst open with
Iron-faced boots of RUF terror
History will let you know that

I am Bo
The Potter's Clay-pot
Worked with the
Heart of Kendekai
Bombs and bullets
Bounce off my cooked-rubber chest

I am Bo
The Potter's Clay-pot
Finished with the liver of Baba Yallah*
Machetes and bayonets
Bend on the ironstone of my belly

I am Bo
The Potter's Clay-pot
Boiling with
THEPEOPLE's stubborn will to live

When rebels, renegades and
Collaborators come
Killing and looting
THEPEOPLE will rise
From the stepped-on tail of a
Black mamba

With the one-bone strength
Of a baboon
THEPEOPLE will rise
To defend the black earth of
Our mother's nipples

And this generation
Will not pass away
Till the whole land sees
Indomitable on the crocodile tail of

*Kendekai and Baba Yallah became war legends during the 1977 civil unrest. It is claimed that they were impregnable to man-made weapons.


Your Love Scares Me

Your love scares
Me like a
Bleeding moon

Your love is a
Savage spirit
Ravishing the moon

Within the clutch
Of your male cult
Under the pressure
Of your manpower

I awake to my

& venture
To beg for


We Light Our Fires in the Village

Between the thighs of Night

There are stories
There are songs
There's rhythm & dance

Glossolalia of jungle
Drums that urge us
Round tongues of fire

The ardent moon comes
To tease shadows on
Mudhouse walls

The stars too
Fireflies in bloom
To nibble nipples of girls playing coocoo*

There's hint in the
Hip-swing of light
Harmattan breeze

Toward which we turn
Like palm trees
On the crest of waves

Then catch our dreams
Before the fire expires
Before we vanish to sleep

Like those shadows on
Mudhouse walls
Into the womb of


*Coocoo: a game of hide-and-seek



Drain your brain
Here, into my water closet

It is white
For identity
American Standard
For class

I see your image
Already in
With my excretions
Head over heels

Throw in your brain
African boy

Matter of course
It will not waste
This is America
We recycle and reuse
First class

Of course
You should know
Your African Princes
Once drained here

Give up brains poor black boy
Come clean Yankee closet