June 24, 2011
In the month of Obiradzi,
students, in white and green
checked shirts, navy shorts,
greet us with songs of welcome, celebration.
In the sleepy sweat of class,
so much is the drone of everyday
Wounded fingers from sharpening pencil stubs with razor blades
Crayons, pencils with erasers, gluesticks: novelties
A boy seated behind me clips a card to his shirt that reads
"For President Vote John Agkekum Kufuor."
Brunyis come bearing sentence banks,
laminated clocks, animal books,
ready to construct travel brochures
of Charleston and Ghana,
to sing "Tooty-ta" and "Five Little Monkeys."
"What do you want to be?" I ask eight-year-old Hannah.
"And you?" to Alima.
"A nurse," she says.
For break: plantain chips, groundnuts, ices, soy kebabs.
Cynthia takes me to a stall to buy groundnut cake.
In red dust they play ampe and jump rope,
They teach us Fante, and laugh
when we get it wrong.
I teach Janet what "freckles" are
when she points to my skin asking, "what's that?"
Later, forty-one students
without a teacher;
one shouts, "We need you!"
I go. They ask questions.
I explain to these older ones:
in the United States we have
no Queen Mother.
Joe Biden is the Vice President.
In class, I ask the children,
"What can we give to our communities?"
A boy answers, "A church."
"How can we give a church?"
"You can build it."
"What if you can't build the whole thing?"
"You can give a bag of concrete."
I think: Here we are, all of us,
each bringing her own bag of cement.
(Celeste Pottier, June 2011)