By Gabriel Awuah Mainoo

October 12, 2023



this dreadful water cannot speak 

for itself. its throat clogged with 

bones-of- fierce-days & contempt.

what is left to show is the cadaver 

of sorrow lurking beneath salt 

scent. a small violet grave. a cavity 

of an unborn child hoarding 

the map of a war behind the back tooth 

of memory. let the man who cannot hear 

nor see kneel on a ship, make 

holes & paths in his navel. 

the glowing red trickling down his hands 

is a riddle of a/hunger. the water open itself 

to thirst. I should have known, vengeance 

is a sacred way to hurl God into 

non-existence. as if I did not make you

understand blood is the origin of gloom. 

I heard a swarm of prayers summon 

every white man to the fangs of the 

Caribbean sea. I hope the displaced boy 

never forgets he’s the secret country 

of his white father. why do too many 

cling to the same sword? in Curaçao,

some of the oppressors I wanted to kill 

are already dead or rebirthed into new nations.

I have known the truest preamble

of redemption. to let myself free 

like sky, I had to rob time’s wings 

for anguish. here in Ghana, 

a slave progeny is burying 

a teddy bear of grief. this 

is bleach & seawater for 

blood-sucked heads. tonight i prefer to wash      

my face with needles. because   

I have chosen to live, free from dawns 

stained with cannon fumes.

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A hosanna or damnation homophony in which a revenant sings with 

the voice of slavery as history conducts with the hands of time

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i slip a ladle of hope & freedom into the Nile─ stir with a name.

all i taste is blood, the sour of bone & the bone of sweat. sweat 

of bodies munched by bedeviled Mediterranean. i’m recalling 

the path where my body was a door, my shadow followed Orion

thru the haze, thru the drowsy breath of a phoenix. i keep walking 

towards history until i’m almost dead. these keys, i cannot find but 

each day hear the rattle, feel a constant bop in the left thigh of my 

spirit. i keep walking towards history until i’m almost dead─ then 

keep walking. 94─ 7th Avenue. white door. brown fence. the odor 

of broccoli stew waiting on the lip of a spire─ of the citadel where 

a plover once stood, ate the scab of our grief & baptized us with 

the holy dung. i keep walking towards history until i’m almost dead.

just know. this─ this is a refrain of our many wails & that to sing 

you must be blessed with the eyes of a baobab & its steadiness 

tucked under your skin. here’s a shaman’s ascending hand that’ll 

wake sleep amongst archeologists, look into the atlas or palm & 

say; this prognosis or thick vein is no fulcrum for our stillborn 

longing. Marvin Gaye, Sylvia my Plath, Paul. L Dunbar─ tongues 

stretched above the Nile awaiting sky’s chrism. so, to understand 

the slave’s long sigh into the night─ those who learn to wait for salt

& bones to accrue on the shore knows there’s a backdoor to every

sorrow. but the tears don’t get clean in rain. the tears don’t get clean 

in rain. i keep walking towards history until i’m almost dead─ keep

walking towards history until i’m almost dead─ then keep walking…

‏‏‎ ‎

Sea Ballet

a sequence

‏‏‎ ‎


Some days, i am the door,
other days i am the shadow 

in the middle. of whether going 

or coming. at sundown the body 

chooses to be water wagging 

its stretch into the dark;
into the cruel bundle of time.
Dec. 3, 1794. twelve thousand nights 

of turbulence. i think of the slave-ship, 

the unpaid chores on the sugar plantation 

in Maranhão. the haul of dank bodies 

pressed flesh-to-flesh from Ghana 

to Curaçao. i picture the cataclysm; 

blood shouting for water. water shouting 

for blood. i feel a tornado in my trachea; 

requiem of wavelets for the dispersal 

of tribal marks. how do i identify 

the shape of my mother’s nail bone? 

what is lost to me is the count of necks;

clans scoffed by the bedeviled 

Caribbean sea. every detail gnaws me 

in the mind. sea! hey! are you watching? 

this is a moonstone anklet & 

amber beads. not given up her waist─

a photo of mother. like you; how brave 

& boundless her love was.



are you digging?…

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‏‏‎ ‎

The more cargo that you have that is living, the more ballast you need because live cargo moves & is not as heavy as, say, tubs of molasses. the anecdote of slave-ships, like slave trade itself, spanned continents & oceans, from fishing villages in Africa to sheikhdoms where powerful chiefs plotted with European traders to traffic in human beings to work on plantations in the new world. the breakthrough that every shipwreck was of a vessel that had been carrying slaves came from something unexpected, the iron blocks of ballasts that were used to offset the weight of slaves in the hold. ballast becomes a signature for slaving a direct corollary to human beings-

waning moon

the utter darkness of heads

under the ocean


the locomotive necropolis 

amid sky & land…

Slavery is an uncomfortable topic to talk about because of the violent tension surrounding it. Nonetheless these poems through their distinct form, diction, exotic structure and lyrical pessimism speak up without tension. This collection is not an answer to the themes explored but a mystery of darkness begging for light.

-Gabriel Awuah Mainoo

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About the author

Gabriel Awuah Mainoo

It did not take long for this young man to be recognized for his mastery as a poet and a creative writer. He won numerous prizes, like the 2022 Singapore Poetry Prize and the 2022 Samira Bawumia Literature Prize. Gabriel is both a romantic and an ironic realist: his work resonates in the hearts of many. Gabriel is one of the two Ghanaian artists selected to travel to Curaçao and perform at the Wintertuin Curaçao Festival.