The Other Side

Freedom

With longing
I stare
At the other side and
Wish to be there.
With tears
I wonder how
If feels to be over.
The wire that stands
Between me and my dreams
Is tougher than the spirit
That seeks
The Other Side.

I’ll dance with joy
And sing my songs
I’ll kneel and pray
Thanking the stars
To be on the other side.
Only if…
I dropped my head
Turned around
With slumped shoulders
Starring at the ground
I made my way
Back to my side.

As I plodded along
I saw lovers kiss
Looking at each other
With longing.
Not far off
Danced a man
With not a care in the world.
I spun as I heard the screaming
Well, it was only a boy
Screaming with delight
As he chased a butterfly.

I looked up
And saw dark clouds move
Over the midday sun.
Your side is beautiful too.
Your side is beautiful too.
The birds seem to sing.
The thunder clapped
The lighting bolted
So on a hot summer day
As it stormed,
I took off my shoes
And in the pouring rain
Danced and sang
Thanking the stars
For blessing me
With my side.

Dear Dad

dad

Happy Fathers’ Day!
How are the celebrations where you are?
Are you looking on at what you left behind and beaming with pride?
Well you should!
Things are not easy but we are managing.
You should see your grandkids now!
So much bigger!
Mum is doing fine.
We were all home for her 70th.
It was really good.
She didn’t say it but she misses you.
You could tell….
Just messaged Kweku with Whatspp.
Whatspp is this messaging app….
Forget it!
Probably over you head.
So Kweku and I were discussing how tough it is to be a father.
How we cannot get our boys to do anything we ask of them.
We reminisce about how you did it.
How you got us to do what you wanted us to do.
However it always felt like it was our idea.
How did you do that?
If you can find a way,
Like someone coming this way
Can you send some tips?
Abi has 3 kids now
And Kojo is finally thinking of settling down.
You know Paa,
The forever starving artist but
Such talent!
We are scattered all over but
We are trying to stick together.
You would have wanted that.
I won’t take any more of your time
Just wanted to say thank you
For teaching me
What it takes to be a father.
I am not perfect at it but
I am striving to make that bar.
You would have wanted that
You would have.

Nine Lives

A Tribute to the those massacred on the evening of June 17, 2017 in The Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

victims

Nine lives!
Nine beautiful lives.
Cut short while seeking solace in a place of worship.
Nine extraordinary lives, then every life is extraordinary.
Lives full of hope.
Lives chasing dreams.
Lives, not blobs of color that can be erased.
Lives that nurtured families and loved ones.
Lives that looked forward to tomorrow, a tomorrow that never came.
Lives that loved, cried and shared.
Shared a dream that all humans were created equal.
Lives that believed that you were more than the color of your skin.
Lives that didn’t see hate but prayed for redemption.
Nine lives.
Nine lives that should make us all look into ourselves and ask if there is not a better way.
Nine lives that stood at the intersection as racism and an out-of-control gun culture collided.
A culture that does not even respect the boundaries of faith and worship.
That left blood flowing like a river in place where peace should engulf your soul.
Nine lives!
Today we mourn and soon the sun will set and bring in a new day called Tomorrow.
Tomorrow erases memory.
It makes the heart ache less.
The terrible pictures of yesterday seem to fade.
Chances are we will forget.
Forget those lives.
The nine precious lives.
I implore you not to forget.
Then if you do, their death would have been in vain.
Hatred would have won and next time who knows how many lives it will be.
Whose son,daughter or mother?
Whose father or uncle?
It might even be you – your life.
So as you lay down tonight, say a prayer for those nine wonderful people.
Nine prayers
Nine Lives
May the next life be kinder to them.

Nanadadzie

Cracked


Cracked

My mum’s gave us a beautiful wooden bowl on one visit. The bowl was designed beautifully with adinkra symbols. One of them was the “Gye Nyame” symbol.

Gye_nyame

The symbol means “No one lives who saw its beginning and no one will live to see it’s end, except God”, popularly translated “Except God.”
Anytime I looked at it, I thought of the gift of life. I saw the bowl as a crucible that held life, the soul, the spirit. Like the gift mum brought us, life is gifted to us too. When we are given this gift of life, it comes with a reminder – Gye Nyame. That we are supposed to take care of this gift and the dear Lord, being omnipresent, is there to help.

A few months after we got the bowl, it fell and got a crack right through the “Gye Nyame” symbol! We were devastated. As I starred at the cracked bowl, it made think of what happens when we did not take care of the gift – it broke. I thought, life is a gift just like the bowl and if we don’t take care of it, we break it. We destroy it.
As life gets destroyed, the reminder, “Gye Nyame” is not enough anymore. It is just another symbol.
I took a picture of the bowl with a 150-year-old lens and printed it with a 150+ year-old technique. Sort of saying some truths are ancient..

Life

This thing called life
What to do with it?
Knead it like dough,
Let it rise and
Bake it?
Chop it up
Into pieces and
Stew it?
Write it as a script and
Movie it?
Run away from it
Terrified at what it might
Throw at you?
Grab it by the horns
Scream Olé!
As you wrestle it down?
Figure out that
Thousand piece puzzle
With nary a clue?
Sit still
As perception and
Enlightenment seep in?
Imagine
It’s a giant lemon and
Juice it?
Step by step
Like on a ladder
Maneuver it?
Like a atom in motion
Bounce around?
Like a total Drunk
Falter around?
Or forget it all and
Just live it?

So, question is
How do you live it?
This thing called life?
Bake it!
Stew it!
Movie it!
Wrestle it!
Figure it out!
Sit still!
Juice it!
Maneuver it!
Falter around!
Yea, live it!

Footsteps in the Sand

IMG_1138

Footsteps in the sand
Always make me think of life.
The impressions we make.
The helter-skelter.
How it all looks jumbled up together
All struggling to stand out
Some deep, some shallow
Others big, the rest small
Yet how fleeting
It all is.
Then with the very next wave
It’s all gone! But….
Hold on! Just hold on!
You see,
After the water recedes,
It all starts again.
This cycle called
Life.

Barbados, A Good Example

I am in love with the island of Barbados.
Forget the beaches, forget the weather, forget the food.
I love the people. That Blacks are running a country they call their own and doing the most with the little they have.
Look around the World and Blacks are not know for good governance – period.
On this little island, they are perfect but they are trying their best.
I observed something today that really impressed me.
My home country of Ghana could learn a thing or two from this island.
I was so struck by the experience that I sent this mail to my friend Ace Anan Ankomah in Ghana.
Ace is an attorney, activist, governance Guru and part of the group that founded OccupyGhana.
That he loves Ghana is an understatement.
Below is the mail I sent him:

We first visited the island a year ago and liked it so much we came back again this year.
Background – I researched the English-speaking islands in the Carribean and liked what I read about Barbados.
Just like last year, we didn’t stay at a high-end resort. We found a home along the beach and rented it so we live among locals.
So much reminds one of Ghana (it’s not even funny!). I think one reason is that Barbados was an English colony too.
The people are friendly, carry themselves with dignity and take very good care of the little they have.
They eat well (McDonalds folded after a year here), stay active and take things easy.
The last point is rather typical of the West Indies.
With it’s proximity to the US, it is becoming a surrogate for Ghana.
Decades ago, they realized that tourism was the bane of their existence and so they all pitch in to make it work. The island does not have a tenth of the resources we (in Ghana) have, it is also much less populated but the way they run stuff could serve as a blueprint for how Accra is run.
We rented a home near the beach and the road that runs in front of it, though narrow and curvy, is also quite busy. Yesterday, a driver going rather fast in his Toyota, missed one of those curves and careened into 2 utility poles, hit a water meter and finally came to rest against my neighbour’s wall. There was water, wires and debris all over. This happend around 12:30 pm. By 4:30 pm, the car was gone, the 2 poles were back up and water supply restored! The street was totally clean! 4 hrs!
I watched as cops showed up, redirected traffic allowing the utility people to come and fix it all! No Kwasi Broni! All as dark as me and you. Getting it done and with equipment that doesn’t look anywhere as nice as I see in the States.
Ace, it is possible! Maybe not in our lifetime but someday, we’ll get there.

Nanadadzie

The Soup of Our Failures

A tribute to all the Flood Victims in Ghana.
May their souls find eternal rest:

Their screams
Pierced the space
Between the thunder and
The explosion of
Pain, despair and neglect.
Lifeless bodies
Charred by ineptitude
Finding their rest
In a cauldron of apathy.
Nameless and faceless
Strange fish
In a soup of our failure.
The waters that cover the land
Cannot hide
What lies beneath.
Then misery is buoyant
And glaring
Above the rapidly rising
Soup of our failures.

Blood, Tears and Hope

I crept cautiously out of the forest after the gunfire and explosions ceased.
One couldn’t be too careful. At the edge was a large Mahogany tree. From behind I peered out towards the village or what was left of it. Smoke rose steadily from some homes still on fire and there was that pungent smell. It reminded me of the fire crackers from last Christmas.
There was no one in sight. I had lost the kids in the melee after the attack started and now I didn’t know even if they were still alive. I crept forward.
As I made my way towards the remnants of the first home, I did so with bated breath, not knowing whether there still attackers out there.
I made to the charred remains of a the big hut and was still alive. The I stopped as tears slowly welled up in my eyes. There were dead bodies as far as I could see. Men, women, children. Even dogs. The tears kept coming.
I crept further, carefully stepping over bodies.
The wind blew steadily, creating an eerie tone as it whistled through the trees.
I crept further.
Beside the wind was an eerie silence. Not even a moan.
In the distance, I heard a voice call out;
“Aba!”
“Jojo!”
It kept calling, a terrified screaming quality to the voice.
Then it dawned on me – i was standing in front of the remnants of my home yelling for my kids who were no where to be found.
The tears kept falling!
That is when I felt the touch and a small voice say “Mama”.
I spun around.
Before me stood a little girl, covered in blood and soot. She was holding her arms and saying “Mama” over and over. She wasn’t mine but did it matter?
I dropped to my knees, took her in my arms and pressed her close.
The tears kept coming.

A Touch of Humanity

I try to see each patient before they come back for surgery. It is not easy in the kind of fast-paced medical practice of today.
Each time I walk to a patient, the reception is different.
Some patients are friendly, others indifferent and resigned.
Every now and then, some think I am an orderly coming to roll them back for surgery. Can you blame them? – after all I’m black and speak with a funny accent.
Then is the occasional “Have you even finished Medical School yet?” Well, I cannot help my boyish, good looks. Hey, don’t hate!
Then are the really difficult patients who come in with their own treatment plan and expect every doctor and nurse to follow this treatment plan they pulled off the internet.
“I don’t want the IV till I am asleep!”
“I am leaving my dentures in!”
Then are those who won’t stop talking. God help you if you are pressed for time and you get a garrulous one.
“So, have you had any problems during an anesthetic?”
“Doc, You wouldn’t believe what happened in 1963, just after I came back from the war. Have you heard of Vietnam. Kate, how old was Emily then?”
My favorite ones are those with a sense of humor, the older patients with very interesting lives and the old ladies who think I’m cute as a button. Again – don’t hate!
I love to ask the older couples how long they’ve been married. Some of the answers are impressive. The record so far is 69 years. Is amazing how these old couples dote on each. So so heart warming.

Scared
Then are the frankly scared-out-of their-minds patients. The interesting bit is how each of them expresses their fear – flat affect, weepy, hostile, demanding, talkative, direct, unfriendly. Whatever the form of expression of this fear, you cannot but see it in their eyes. It has that get-me-out of-here look. it is really easy to chalk it to the patient being a horrible person. In my case, I could always pull out the race card. However, I think it’s in those instances that one should stop being a doctor and be a fellow human being. It is in those moments that one should lose the impersonal tone and warm up to the patient. Break the ice.
I am rather direct and go “You look worried. What is bothering you?” or “You look totally scared. Want to ran away?” The reactions are interesting. I always get a torrent – of tears or words. The men are tougher to crack. You know us. We need to be tough and all.
Once the torrent starts, I just listen or wait with a box of tissues ready till they finish crying and then listen.
Listen to their fears. Listen. As you do, don’t be disdainful, even if their fears sound silly to you. Call up all the empathy you have. When they are done, try to explain in lay terms why each fear is realistic or not and if realistic, what the surgical and anesthesia teams do to prevent any such misfortune(s) from happening. The little expression of humanity is way better than any anxiolytic you can order for the patient, believe me.
A surgical procedure is very scary for most patients. It is a time in one’s life where one is totally at the mercy of other people (air travel offers s similar situation). These am-at-their-mercy people are supposed to be experts but how good are they really? Are they rested enough? How many of these procedures have they done? A patient is supposed to have asked all these questions at the surgeon’s office but for some, their fears were not allayed enough. There is that element of chance. What if something goes wrong?
Then there are those facing terminal illness or the possibility of a terminal diagnosis.
Is it a surprise that some patients are scared out of their wits?
We are doctors, highly trained in the art of healing. That is our job. We are pressed for time. We have to leave emotion out of it. Beyond all that we are also humans. So are the patients. Sometimes, these patients want to see that human. Show it to them.