Today I will write a poem and name it after your beads – an essay/poem by Henneh Kyereh Kwaku

I begin in tears, like a child new to this world. It’ll be foolish that I think a newborn is new to the woes of this new world. The world is only new each day but not a child. Sometimes little Yaw says things like he wasn’t born yesterday. Often, what we say is, “he speaks as though someone put it in his mouth.” But we know, this child came fully formed with limbs, eyes, nose, a head & every body part he’d need to be whole in this world.


Once I wrote a poem about wholeness—it was about waist-beads because I had read a poem about Ghana. Somewhere in the poem, the author speaks about the beauty of waist-beads & even learns us how to know which is quality & how it can make even the Tuesday-weeding man feel the swell in his groin. The poem, though about Ghana, was about the wholesomeness of waist-beads. I loved the poem. I wrote a poem. My poem wasn’t about Ghana but waist-beads & maybe, that & my identity is a map—when someone reads that poem & knows I’m Ghanaian, maybe, that person will know that in Ghana too we cherish waist-beads.


There’s a thing about knowing that makes it hard for us to forget—a thing about memory—but I’m so glad I don’t know that thing. I have not always cherished memories that do not depart even if they grow into laughter. I have seen a man laugh through his tears, I don’t know which came first—the laughter or the tears. I still wouldn’t want to know. If a sentence is flawed by logic, introduce an or so it can lean both ways. Example: I have seen a man cry through his laughter or I have seen a man laugh through his tears.


When I count your beads, I am not logical & I do not intend to lean anywhere but where love leans. When I write a poem about your beads, it is not about your body but it is a map—each line is a way, a path leading to your body—each bead is a bridge closing the gap. I never know the number of beads on each line even if I know that fourteen lines brace your waist. Nights come, nights go—one night you’re no longer here. Your shadow lurks around, following & trying to catch me like we did sometimes. When I try to catch you, I catch air.


In a dream, a new dream—the map is wiped—the beads are gone. But I still call them by your name, I was told a name can bring anything into existence. Or existence can bring everything a name. Is there a whole without a hole—hollowness? Or is it the hollowness that makes a whole? I won’t know—but this is what I know—this is a poem or an essay, named after your beads—

when you danced
every bead was a refrain of
a song, a balm
drowning my fears

add more beads
I know how to plead
for the things that make me whole
like seeing beads rattle
& I do it like how
I would ask
the gari & beans seller
by the gutter
by the street
to add some more bean

oh lawd I love these beads
& how they round your waist
& how they keep the talk on the low
because damn they’re expensive
& expensives don’t brag
& how they humble me
before your throne
oh queen

Henneh Kyereh Kwaku is the author of Revolution of the Scavengers, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. He won third place for the Samira Bawumia Literature Prize in 2020. He studied Public Health at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ghana. Kwaku is from Gonasua in the Bono Region of Ghana. His twitter bio says he’s ”God’s child,” ask him which God via Twitter/IG: @kwaku_kyereh & Henneh Kyereh Kwaku on Facebook.

Banner: Apex by Robert Frede Kenter

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