Get Out of Here, Boys!
When we were children, we lived in Slip Way, Bishop
Brooks or Bassa Community, laid out, the masterpieces
of an unskilled artist. We were Turtur and Muriel and Mikey,
Comfort and Teeta, Sunday and me. Me, thin like a needle,
and my friend, Turtur, looking like she would break in half.
It was not just the houses matted into each other, not just their
zinc roofs touching, not just grass running from one door to
the other, too many pots boiling in one big kitchen. It was not
just us children in the rain, playing “Rain, Rain Come Down,”
or “Nafoot” or “I Was Passing By, My Auntie Called Me In.”
It was something, you see, just something. The boys running
around, shirtless. Little sticks for guns under skinny arms, in
between houses, chasing an enemy, playing “Cowboy War;”
but we girls, in our corners, bamboo sticks for people,
cardboard boxes for gates, playing “Family”– Then the boys
came running, feet too big for shoes, barefoot, stomping over
our make-believe houses, our bamboo people. Sun so hot it
could set the whole world on fire, and there they were, shouting,
“Kpaw, kpaw, kpaw… WAR….. ready?” “Yes, war ready!”
And all that shooting began, make-believe shooting, mashing
up our bamboo people in their bamboo beds. Then Auntie Vic
would shout, “get out of here, boys!” Today, here we are, all
of us now women with husbands, men with wives and children,
living in London, Manchester, waiting on the war in Abidjan,
Accra, Kalamazoo, oh, Kalamazoo, Chicago, New York, Jersey
City. Now, Monrovia’s on fire, kpaw, kpaw, kpaw. “Stop that
noise, boys, get out of here,” Mama would scream when those
boys broke through her room, hiding right under Mama’s bed.
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a Liberian civil war survivor who emigrated to the United States. She is the author of four books of poetry and has received numerous grants and awards, including the Liberian Award 2010. Dr. Wesley is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the Pennsylvania State University in the USA. Her work has been published widely, and she reads regularly across the world.
Poem in this post by kind permission of the author from the volume:
Becoming Ebony, Copyright: (Patricia Jabbeh Wesley & Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois, 2003.) No part of the poems should be changed, restructured, rearranged, and all web posting should conform to line breaks and stanzas as in the original arrangement of the poems here. Any changes will be deemed illegal. Unless for educational purposes, no part of the poems should be reproduced in print for resale or republishing.