The Sierra Leone Web

Cape_Lighthouse
 
  Josaya Bangali was born in Mattru Kolanima, Tikonko Chiefdom, Sierra Leone. He was educated at Christ The King College, Bo and the Njala University College, University of Sierra Leone, where he took a B.A. Education degree in Literature and Linguistics. He lives in Bo, Sierra Leone. His poems speak about the ruinous civil war fought in Sierra Leone between 1992 and 2000. They reflect his own sensibility to the violence, and also represent the feelings of people wherever there is or there has been war.  

 

Parliament House

Politicians sacrifice human heads 
In their drive to climb and take part 
In the sharing of the elephant meat 
In the ceiling of Parliament House. 
Each is poised to draw the ladder away 
For a colleague at the top 
To fall down.

Those at the top
Change to sea-bottom grass
They forget
The rock-top grass
Baking in the sum at the bottom.
And when they count ten lump of meat
They announce only five.

But, a white fowl is a white fowl.
They betray themselves
In the eleventh lump.
So those at the bottom
Set fire to the roof of Parliament House
And the innocent one
Cannot go to sleep.

 

He and She

He came to her.
They stood side by side
On the bush path.
The moon was glittering.
They began to toy with the glistening leaves,
Wondering what lay ahead of them.

Tears of sadness rolled down her chicks.
And she asked him,
'Can a young person save this land
Can a young girl build a fine house here
With her own heart and soul?
Can the ferocity, barbarity of those bullets,
The sorrow, agony, anguish, and lines of death
We are breaking through
Teach our elders a lesson?

As her questions questioned him,
He plucked off a young leaf from a twig
And pinned her hope to it, saying,
'Those withered leaves of yonder clumps
Will blossom once more,
New medicinal leaves will sprout up
For young antelopes to shew,'

As he spoke to her
An old man blindfolded his eyes
And stopped his ears with his fingers.
He stopped seeing her rolling tears,
Stopped hearing her painful questions
But the leaf in her hand didn't wither.

 

Elegy: For the Dead in Mass Graves

Ancestors of new death
Take this message
To ancestors of old death
Among whom was Senge Pieh
Not forgetting Mama Yoko and Bai Bureh.

Tell them that the children of Nyagua
Have opened each other's stomach
And fought over their entrails.
They've been laid to rest
On top of each other.
No side-bands are worn
To pronounce them dead
And the ceremonies of the spirit-house
Cannot be looked after.

The children of Nyagua are suffocated
Like fish smoked over a hearth.
Nomoli is sated with the coagulation of blood.
The wine of remembrance cannot be spilt
All the gourds are broken;
The meeting of companionship cannot be held
All the benches are shattered.
Kinsmen no longer stand with kinsmen;
Lobsters have lost their grip in the rapids.

 

The Brick Layers

She came to him.
They stood in the flame of the sun,
watching the brick layers
raise the walls of the State House
which showed the beauty of the city.

'What are they doing?' he asked her.
'They're rebuilding our State House
which the war knocked down yesterday.
After that they'll rebuild our Currency House
and then our Garrison....
All of which will show the strength
Of our Nation', she explained.

'Won't they first lay the bricks
of their own heart and spirit.
Can castles protect budding minds?
Can mansions….which crumble
Create a new life in you and me?
Can they lead us to good health
And filled stomachs?'

Feeding her spirit on his questions,
She hugged and kissed him.
He released a broad smile
And they parted.

 

The Torch Bearers

Look at what is happening to us:
Our torch bearers have put off
The burning fibres
Lighting our way
In this winding forest track

Darkness has pocked his fingers
Into our eyes.
The thorns of the undergrowth
Are stinging us one by one
Porcupines shoot us
With their quills while we grope.

Alas; We are falling down prostrate
Like chicks under the feet of their mother.
We are sitting on rocks, hard rocks,
With our elbows on our knees
Our chins on our knuckles,
Gazing in the looming wilderness

O! It is raining in torrents.....
Lightening flashing, thunder crashing,
Blood oozing from the cracks on the sky.
Darkness has poked his fingers
Into our eyes.

 

Elegy: For Kinsmen Killed Away From Home

Go vultures
Troop abroad in search of our kinsmen
Killed away from home.
Go have your feast and save our face
Go on, punctilious pathologists,
Go trace the pellets lodged in their flesh.
Your beaks are less passionless
Than the heart of men.
Desecrate their bodies, degrade them,
Your claws are less pitiless
Than the heart of men

Mishandle their symmetry, maltreat them,
Gorge yourselves with their eyes,
Crack their skulls.
Lick the mayonnaise of their brain.
Aggress their entrails
Devour their hearts, livers, lungs
Munch the ketchup of their blood
With the bread of their flesh.
But - leave their bones there,
Leave their bones... we shall fetch them
To the land of their umbilical cord,
Where they will rise and live in peace
When the mortar fires die.

 

The End of the Pain

The pain is gone
The pain of the wound inflicted on you
To mark the climax of the ordeal
Of the initiation into womanhood.

The wound is cut
Blood spilt, water spilt.
You've passed the test, my native land
You're no longer a child.

The spirits of your grandmothers
Are rejoicing at the shadows
Of your approaching peace
And lost strength,
You've passed the test
You're no long a maiden.

The shock of the electric fish
You unwittingly touched under water
Has turned you into a woman
You're no longer a fool.

Dry your tears my native land
Rest and smile.
This wound, this pain, this quake
Has made you a woman indeed.

 

Sick Land

I've done my diagnosis.
You're sick my native land,
Critically sick;
Your heart is impregnated with demons.
You're afflicted with abysmal blindness.
Your mental condition is marked
By fixed delusions and false associations.
You're in an abnormal state.
You're sick, my birthland,
Critically sick.

 

The Leaf

He came to her.
They stood side by side on the bush path.
The moon was glittering.
She began to toy with the glistening leaves,
wondering what lay ahead of them.

Tears of sadness rolled down her cheeks.
And she asked him,
'Can a young person save this land?
Can a young girl build a fine house here
with her own heart and soul?
Can the ferocity, barbarity of those bullets,
the sorrow, agony, anguish, lines of death
we are breaking through teach our elders a lesson?'

As her questions questioned him,
he plucked off a young leaf from a twig
and pinned her hope to it, saying,
'Those withered leaves of yonder clumps
will blossom once more.
New medicinal leaves will sprout up
for young antelopes to chew.'

As he spoke to her
an old man blindfolded his eyes
and stopped his ears with his fingers.
He stopped seeing her rolling tears,
stopped hearing her painful questions.
But the leaf in his hand didn't wither.