The Rustling of the Leaves

By Adelaide Aseidu
She stared up into the sky for the millionth time that day. Well, probably not into the sky, but into the bright gold spots of light that seeped through the canopy of dark green mango leaves. The sun’s rays painted dancing patterns against the background of leaves swaying in the breeze. She felt a bit like them, these leaves that moved not of their own accord, but simply swished wherever the wind blew. Occasionally, one would fall gently to the ground, another addition to the graveyard of varying degrees of rotting leaves lying beneath her feet.
She wondered, if the leaves had voices, would they cry out when they fell? Would they resist the call of the wind or simply mouth their contentment, in humble submission to their fate? Maybe the rustling sounds they made were whispers housing the secret desires of rebel leaves, who liked her, yearned for something greater than kowtowing to some unseen, all-powerful wind, but could see no way of escape, other than the piles of decaying foliage beneath. The life of the leaf; danced to the tune of the wind, or shriveled up and died….had become her life.
Looking down at the ground now, she traced another seemingly meaningless image in the sand with her big toe. It was a shapeless, almost hideous creation, nothing like the strokes of her paint brush against canvas. There was life in her brush and it gave her paintings breath so that they would leap out of their frames, giving some silent message to whoever cared to look. Their yellows spoke of happiness and their reds of anger and their blues of a myriad of things that could only be decoded by the discerning eye. Right now, her toe carried the opposite of the blood that coursed through her brush and her sand monster spoke of death; the death of the leaves and the death of her dreams.
She stood up. Enough time had already been wasted under the mango trees- not as if there was anything important to be done at the moment. She was playing a waiting game and her time was almost up. She had merely hours left until she would be packed up and shipped out to be made into an engineer. What manner of engineer she would be, she could not fathom. But her father was the wind and she was the leaf and she would bend or fall. She had been born into a life that had already been planned out. Father had said, “Awura will go to kindergarten early” and of course she had. “Awura will be the best pupil in her primary school,” and she had obligingly complied. “Awura will get into the best High School in the country” and she had all but killed herself to do so and had done so. She had lived to please her father. She had basked in the glow of his attention and flourished under his praise. But over the sunshine of his approval, she had always honed the cloud of her art.
She would never forget her first scribbles with a crayon, in the kindergarten she had started at 1 ½ years old instead of the normal 2 ½. The colours had made her almost giddy with excitement and she had discovered from that moment that she had been imbued with the power to turn colours into spirit and that her markings on any surface, were not just ordinary, but spoke volumes. That was the birth of the cloud.
She had bent, oh how she had bent and had been blown and tossed by his stone will and steely resolve to mould her into the lead character of the script he had written even before she was born; an answer to the questions raised by his unfulfilled dreams. She had played the part well but it had been consistently adulterated by the additional lines sparked by her fire. And her father would have none of that. So for years she had painted in secret so that his conditional sunshine would never give way to a night that gave no guarantees of a moon’s guiding light.
But now the time had come when she was no longer a tender green leaf, desperate to drink in the sun’s radiance. She was dark green like the mango leaves above her head, but unlike them, she had a mouth and a will and a fire that gnawed at the seams of her soul, urging her to do more than just rustle.
So she got up and went into the house. She went to the file cabinet beneath the staircase and gathered them. There were some beneath her bed and she gathered them. The sack in the basement was full of them and she gathered them also. There were piles of them in the storeroom that her father never entered and she gathered them from there too. Then she picked up the last ones from her late mother’s locked up art gallery, whose key she kept in the locket hung around her neck.
She walked to her father’s study and entered before he could answer her knocks. She told him she was tired and she could not star in the charade anymore and that she was a time bomb about to explode and that she would not be made into an engineer. And he sat there and exploded but she stood firm and would not be blasted to bits by his dynamite. And in response to his tirade, she spoke no words but would pick them up one by one. First the painting of the happy family she had made the year before her mother had parted; the painting where the sun was a bright yellow and the sky a true blue and their smiles were more than bared teeth. Then the one from her thirteenth birthday, that depicted running blood and a broken heart, when her mother’s death snuffed out her father’s joy and grew the cloud between her husband and their daughter. Then she showed him the black hole swallowing the colours which carried her creativity. And then she picked up the shimmering gold work of art that her mother had painted for her just before the cancer had stolen her, in whose center, she had carved in the words, “Follow your dreams, then you will shine, my star.” Those words were like lyrics to the song of her heart beat. But her father was a tone deaf bomb that refused to be deactivated. She would not remain to be torn into little pieces as he detonated, she would rather evacuate.
So she turned around with the gold painting in her arms and her admission letter to the art school somewhere in Paris, which he had refused to look at, and walked, away from her rustling, up the path of her dreams, so she could shine. Before she stepped out of the compound, packed up to be made into a star, she cast a sidelong glance at the leaves of the mango trees and whispered a parting message to them, “I’m sorry my old friends, but I had to do more than rustle to the wind.” And then she flew…

Bio.
Adelaide Aseidu is student at University of Ghana. She blogs here.

The Truth

by Steve Klepetar

She told him the truth, that money

was the name of her aunt. He touched

her hair, they walked out in the rain.

She jingled her purse, which coughed

gold coins all over her hands.

He believed her cheeks for the light

they shed on his worn shoes.

He liked the seashell shape of her ears.

She told him that she sang an aria

woven from the tongues of wolves.

Soon they were ankle deep

and grasshoppers chanted in the grass

beyond the few remaining trees.

Otherwise the pond was silent: no frogs

ripping holes in the reeds, no leaping fish.

In that humming, humid evening he bent

her stolen name into a ring and fell

laughing into her blind and tongueless sea.

In Wild Hunger

by Joan McNerney

Thirsty for blackness searching tunnels

tasting empty wells. How many times?

 

Ten times ten times ten. Ten thieves

have stolen our souls.

 

Lost in ignorance with plastic eyes

cosmetic sneers, they find illusion

in their own reflections.

 

Seven times seven times seven.

The shards of their mirrors are crushed.

Slivers of glass will be their food.

 

Many are lost to poverty stranded in

pools of despair. They crouch in

corners, eating the air of distrust.

 

Three times three times three

faith hope charity.

Which is the greatest of these?

Do you know true charity?

 

Tracing old constellations to find

nourishment. Though I have heard

the great silence, stood in golden warmth

filled with pure light…I am not yet free.

 

One times ones times one.

In wild hunger and thirst, starved by sorrow,

dressed in tears…searching for comfort.

Dirty Trip, Approved

A negative sign, heaven’s chalkboard marks
us down, who goes on up to rejoice?
complements can only describe,
the down below sees things extorted,
best truth in vision prize this century

Bad luck, nobody’s fault, not even an angel,
lazy bones too light to walk,
weaklings with wings and no equations,
some myth, no real hold,
setting up calendars for us, chapels too,
little else, they cannot claim

Minus and without, this experiment runs
into the wild, are you frightened?
lab reports circulate in confidences
while arcades tug, pushing us into a market
of “perhaps,” only selling “maybe” today

Bio.
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in Arlington, Virginia. His work has
appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine,
Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, THEMA, Pear Noir, The Minetta
Review, and Yes Poetry. He has a chapbook Common Symptoms of an
Enduring Chill Explained, from Folded Word Press. He blogs at
mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking forward  to publishing a novel.

.

The People Who Write Questionnaire: Ayesha Harruna Attah

By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (NEBH)

Ayesha Harruna Attah Photo

Ayesha Harruna Attah (AHA) wrote and published her first novel, Harmattan Rain, with a fellowship from Per Ankh Publishers and TrustAfrica. Harmattan Rain was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa Region. Ayesha was educated at Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University and received an MFA in creative writing from NYU in 2011. Her second novel, Saturday’s Shadows, is forthcoming from World Editions in the Fall of 2014.

NEBH: If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?
AHA: The Thousand Adventures of the Ghanaian Nomad.

NEBH: What is the greatest story ever told?
AHA: The story of creation, in all the different forms it takes–whether it is Adam and Eve in Eden, a big bang, or an old woman pounding fufu pushing Nyame higher up and up into the sky.

NEBH: Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
AHA: The characters in The Wind in the Willows. The whole lot of them—the Mole, the Rat, and the Toad.

NEBH: Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
AHA: I would love to have coffee with Naguib Mahfouz in a café in one of Cairo’s alleys.

NEBH: What is your favorite word right now?
AHA: Rubicund.

NEBH: What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
AHA: Kerfuffle.

NEBH: How many words have you written today?
AHA: Do emails count?

NEBH: Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
AHA: It goes and comes in waves. Sometimes you ride the crest of the wave, sometimes you don’t. In my forthcoming, novel, Saturday’s Shadows, writing Kojo’s story was always exhilarating. He’s funny and self-absorbed, yet totally adorable and he says the most ridiculous things.

NEBH: What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
AHA: The guilt that overcomes me when I’m not writing.

NEBH: What is the thing about writing that you most love?
AHA: I love that I get to be several people at once and experience lives totally different from mine.

NEBH: What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
AHA: That writers drink a lot?

NEBH: What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
AHA: And this will contradict my last answer … not all writers are tortured souls.

NEBH: What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
AHA: Just how shy I can be!
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of Powder Necklace and the founder of the blog People Who Write. Named among the 39 most promising African writers under 39, her work will be featured in the forthcoming anthology Africa39.

 

 

The last words of Aunt Araba

I am going…
when I am gone,
tell Kojo to put away the bottle
else akpeteshie will take a photo of him

I am going…
when I am gone,
tell Birago not to put her head on her husband
for I have not seen a pillow in that man

I am going…
when I am gone,
tell Asantewaa to knock at Esi’s door
for she owes me five okra and an onion

I am going…
when I am gone,
tell Ebo to dig a foot deep around the odum
for I have hidden dozens of stones

I am going..
when I am gone,
tell Kakraba not to marry from Manso-Krom
for their women are lions and scorpions

I am going…
when I am gone,
invite Kuntu and offer him some drink
tell him: he has my pardon over the land dispute

I am going…
when I am gone,
tell Aba: I don’t need her shadow at my funeral
for the arrows of her falsehood have crushed my soul

I am going…
when I am gone,
be faithful with your vows to Nananom
that you may have their blessing and avoid their wrath

I am going…
ah… oh… oh…

 

Bio.

Darko Antwi was born in Ashanti New Town, Kumasi, in May 1976 to Kwaku Antwi and Elizabeth Donkor. After his secondary education at Bekwai Seventh Day Adventist, Antwi taught in local kindergarten and primary schools for five years.

In September 2002 he travelled to the United Kingdom. During his stay in England, he was occupied by a string of odd jobs, including the position of a factory labourer, fabric launderer and newspaper columnist.

Antwi is currently the proprietor of Seaweed Books, publishers of Phillis Wheately Chapter and organizers of both the Ahenkro Book Fair and the Miss Akoto Book Club.