Two Poems by Tryphena Yeboah w/an image by Robynne Limoges

On the Occasion of Answering

Before it is too late to talk about love,
My mother wants to know if someone, a boy,
has stopped, even for a second, to look at me

If maybe, in this foreign land,
while the roof of the world slowly suspends,
threatening to collapse,
A boy, a man, a gentle, kind being
has paid any attention to me-
this difficult heart, this wilding path,
this angry body tearing through itself

There is not a lover who sees a lonesomeness this thick
and wants to touch it.

All around me there’s the kind of fires
that turns the sky a dangerous amber.
A virus erupting into a body.
My eighty-year-old neighbor feels her
vertebrae shrink, each disk pressing down
on the next, rubbing against the cord
For a surgery, the possibility of stroke,
of bleeding to death
We count the days like they were fruit,
Squeeze and feel them, knowing very well
the rot could begin from the inside
and spill through our weeks,
move bloody, mercilessly through us for a lifetime

All around me death grips on people’s lungs like a leash,
every last breath a painful, screeching sound
Fear, like a vibrant memory, raids the mind
Spins the world ruthless and sends me crashing into
long nights of quiet rioting,
the kind of wound that sits fresh like it was just cut into

Haven’t these eyes seen the world, crouching on its knees,
suffering and pleading its own redemption?
I know better than to hope for anything good.

And yet my mother, widowed and bright and seeking,
wants to know if, from this forbidden time of living,
something tender is sprouting,
making a human out of me


For S.

Ours is not an impoverished relationship
The roots of a thing resisting growth.
What we are is a sprouting field
A greenness that ripens fast
And extends a hope
we cannot live without

Which is why the second I hear about the malfunction,
the accident that your brain has turned against itself
That you’re twitching, your body having lost all control,
jolting an electric madness through you
My heart, it burns.
My heart, it gives way,
falls free from its anchor
and shoots right up into my throat.

A lump trapped inside.
An abnormal growth of a cell.
Take a day. Any day, where the body,
without warning, contorts itself into a crisis.
the urgency with which it spreads,
the manner in which it breaks the flesh that holds it.
Take a day. Any day, where the night before, your
friend talks and laughs like it is the most normal thing.
The most precious thing.
And before you know it,
you’re waking up to a life that is
naked and exposed.
So fragile you’re sent to your
knees gathering what’s left of it.

I witness the breaking down
My friend- a drip hooked to her vein, its thread strangling me at the neck
My friend – losing her speech, the hitch in her voice creating a void
that can swallow me whole
My friend – taking out her braids, preparing her scalp
for wires to record wave patterns.
I go under and under, drowning where no one sees.
The friend of my heart on a bed, a table, inside a tube-shaped machine. My God.
A nightmare. An emergency. The body as a frightening complexity.
And my friend, laboring in breath while the condition splits her open.
She inhales and it’s a gift. She exhales and it’s a promise.

Take a day. Any day, where everything is predictable.
Where you lift a cup to your lips and eat of something sweet.
Honey on your tongue. Waters of milk flowing about you, on all sides.
Days you are so at ease you escape the memory of pain.
Where life is so long, so full you take your time living it.
Now what you imagine, give to me tenderly.
I’m desperate for something to believe.

Tryphena Yeboah is a fellow in Creative Writing at Chapman University. She grew up in Ghana and holds a degree from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Her fiction has appeared in Narrative Magazine, and her poetry chapbook was selected by Kwame Dawes for inclusion in the New-Generation African Poets series from Akashic Books. Tweets: (1) Tryphena Yeboah (@tryphena_yeboah) / Twitter

Banner: Untitled, a photo work (c) Robynne Limoges (1) Robynne Limoges (@LimogesRobynne) / Twitter

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