Gawking through the open classroom door.
Then turns back to us, adults in years
Though infants linguistically
And continues the day’s lesson
In his characteristically quiet Ghanaian voice
Midzi banku. - I eat banku.
Idzi banku. - You eat banku.
Odzi banku. - She eats banku.
Yedzi banku. - All of us eat banku.
Gettah way! Go home!
School is over for today!
The voice is loud, the body language sharp,
The movement toward the door quick
And the children scatter.
Yet, like so many birds on a busy street,
Only just out of reach and barely out of sight.
Though there is bite lurking behind that bark
The children all know that love lives there as well.
We hear them laughing
Just on the other side of the room’s concrete block walls.
We see smiling faces peeking through openings
We hear voices mimicking ours as we
Try to pronounce so many unfamiliar words.
His Mr. Hyde no longer required,
The quiet, elegant grandfather returns and resumes the lesson.
His demeanor is calm, his smile infectious,
His comments encouraging as we struggle
To wrap immobile American mouths around strange sounds
Language scholar and village historian
Long since retired from teaching in the public schools of Ghana
He continues daily at his younger brother’s school
Doing that which he knows best:
Challenging children to learn,
Demanding that they do well,
Loving his students.
(Don Clerico, June 2011)