A Poem by Kofi Awoonor

Posted on 29. Mar, 2011 by in Africa-America Dialog, Blog

Kofi Awoonor was born in Ghana in 1935 in the small farming village of Wheta, the son of a tailor and a chieftain’s daughter. He was educated at the University of Ghana and studied further in London and New York. Awoonor’s poetry, rooted in the oral poetry of his history, has kept close to the vernacular rhythms of African speech and poetry. “It is for this reason I have sat at the feet of ancient poets whose medium is the voice and whose forum is the village square and the market place.”

This Earth, My Brother

The dawn crack of sounds known

rending our air

shattering our temples toppling

raising earthwards our cathedrals of hope,

in demand of lives offered on those altars

for the cleansing that was done long ago.

Within the airwaves we carry

our hutted entrails; and we pray;

shrieks abandoned by lonely road-sides

as the gunmen’s boots tramp.

I lift up the chalice of hyssop and tears

to touch the lips of the thirsty

sky-wailing in a million spires

of hate and death; we pray

bearing the single hope to shine

burnishing in the destiny of my race

that glinting sword of salvation.

In time my orchestra plays my music

from potted herbs of anemone and nim

pour upon the festering wounds of my race,

to wash forever my absorbent radiance

as we search our granary for new corn.

There was that miracle we hoped for

that salvation we longed for

for which we said many prayers

offered many offerings.


In the seasons of burning feet

of bad harvest and disastrous marriages

there burns upon the glint edge of that sword

the replica of the paschal knife.

The sounds rounded our lonely skies

among the nims the dancers gather their cloths

stretching their new-shorn hides off offered cows

to build themselves new drums.

Sky-wailing from afar the distant tramp

of those feet in rhythm

miming underneath them violence.

Along the roads lined with mimosas

the mangled and manacled are dragged

to the cheers of us all.

We strew flowers at the feet of the conquerors

beg for remission of our sins…


…He will come out of the grave

His clothes thrown around him;

worms shall not have done their work.

His face shall beam the radiance of many suns.

His gait the bearing of a victor,

On his forehead shall shine a thousand stars

he will kneel after the revelation

and die on this same earth.


And I pray

That my hills shall be exalted

And he who washes me,

breathes me

shall die.

They led them across the vastness

As they walked they tottered

and rose again. They walked

across the grassland to the edge of the mound

and knelt down in silent prayer;

they rose again led to the mound,

they crouched

like worshippers of Muhammed.

Suddenly they rose again

stretching their hands to the crowd

in wasteful gestures of identity

Boos and shrieks greeted them

as they smiled and waved

as those on a big boat journey.

A sudden silence fell

as the crowd pushed and yelled

into the bright sharp morning of a shooting.


They led them unto the mound

In a game of blindman’s bluff

they tottered to lean on the sandbags

Their backs to the ocean

that will bear them away.

The crackling report of brens

and the falling down;

a shout greeted them

tossing them into the darkness.


and my mountains reel and roll

to the world’s end.




  • Mawunya Amenuveve

    Oh Prof you valued your Ewe culture so much till you saw reason to drop your English names for your traditional names. You are forever etched on our memories.I have learnt so much from you. I’m so sad, so so sad! that “the worshippers of Muhammed”, the albatross around the neck of the civilised world,have done it again. They have shed an innocent blood. May the merciful JESUS the CHRIST forgive them. Sons of pedition indeed! RIP Prof.

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  • Nd

    Really sad. RIP Professor

  • http://www.cocojams.com Azizi Powell

    What a tragedy!

    I’m so sorry for the loss of Kofi Awoonoor and also sorry that it took this horrific attack in Kenya for me and probably for countless others to learn about and read one of his poems.


  • Zawadi Nyong’o

    Rest In Peace & Power Dear Kofi Awoonor! We are honouring you with a candle-light vigil tonight, on my birthday, in Nairobi. Thousands will remember you and continue to be inspired by you. Praying for peace and healing for your close family and friends.
    Love and Light,
    Zawadi Nyong’o

  • Oluoch-Madiang’


    You sleep on your hand Kofi, laid
    Silent in a coffee splash on Nairobi’s floor
    By mumbling devils.
    How rudely has your dance of cocoa and coffee tastes
    Been interrupted, at this moment turned into a
    Morning of your blood!

    We cannot bear our leadened hearts, shame
    Weighing us down that your god finger has been folded
    By sissies here under our greening sun.
    Would you Kofi understand
    Any fingers that splattered men’s blood & coffee
    Like does a hen scattering bush faeces?
    Neither would we.
    Your finger must be unfolded somehow, and a life
    Communed in this coffee and cocoa tango.

    A scorching Tero Buru shall therefore thunder I foresee,
    And our choice bulls will stampede from here to Accra:
    Awoonor take this to the bank,
    Not a single Mogadisho bush will withstand the trampling hooves,
    Or grow hardy enough to hide the fingers of scarecrows.
    No, this will be no revenge, not a coward’s bile;
    A Passover.
    Your spilled blood smeared on our foreheads,
    Your poems tattooed on our tongues
    Will deliver us to life atriumphed, and we shall ride
    Your monument home atop our bulls’ longest horns!

    Then we will sip silently,
    And nod in cocoa and coffee bliss
    Erohamano, Migosi Kofi Awoonor.

    OLUOCH-MADIANG’ Kisumu, September, 2013.

  • James Neeley

    So sad it took this tragedy for me to hear this poem.

  • Jim

    This sad poem, a sequence of his prophesy, has repeated again this day. I am sorry that he himself was caught in something so terrible.
    I am glad though, to know him today through this and other poems.

  • Anonymous

    Any religion can used for good or for evil. I’m certain that Prof would agree that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and that millions have been killed in the name of Christianity.

  • http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/ vickie johnstone

    I’m in shock over this today. So sad. Children as young as 8. He was a great poet.

  • Frank_Obuobi

    I am very sad this day……but God knows best…..Uncle kofi R.I.P

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  • makafui apedo

    Kofi was a lone wolf fighting the worshippers of Muhammad and Michael Angelo.Unfortunately the warlord died on the battle field.This is a wake up call for us to stand firmly against those who destroy our history and later downloaded their poisonous softwares of barbarism and imbecility on the minds of our brothers and sisters. We must not allow them to take over the mind of our Somali brothers

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  • Khaleel

    The Journey Beyond

    The howling cry through door posts
    carrying boiling pots
    ready for the feasters.
    Kutsiami the benevolent boatman;
    when I come to the river shore
    please ferry me across
    I do not have tied in my cloth the
    price of your stewardship.

    [A tragic loss — may he now have peace]

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  • Caxton Hlestakov

    So sad he had to go by his own prophecy…..this earth my brother