On the Gallows Once

I crossed quite a few
of your rivers, my gods,
into this plain where thirst reigns
I heard the cry of mourners
the long cooing of the African wren at dusk
the laughter of the children at dawn
had long ceased

night comes fast in our land

where indeed are the promised vistas
the open fields, blue skies, the singing birds
and abiding love?

History records acts
of heroism, barbarism
of some who had power
and abused it massively
of some whose progenitors
planned for them
the secure state of madness
from which no storm can shake them;
of some who took the last ships
disembarked on some far-off shores and forgot
of some who simply laid down the load
and went home to the ancestors

Reproduced from The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013 by Kofi Awoonor by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2013 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska Press. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 20, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.