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FURTHER READING
Poems about Ancestors
Ancestors
by Cesare Pavese
Arabic
by Naomi Shihab Nye
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
by Jane Kenyon
Deer Dancer
by Joy Harjo
How I Got That Name
by Marilyn Chin
How Palestinians Keep Warm
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Ladders
by Elizabeth Alexander
Many Asked Me Not to Forget Them
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Nunaqtigiit
(people related through common possession of territory)

by Joan Kane
On this Very Street in Belgrade
by Charles Simic
Passing
by Carl Phillips
Post-Dissertation-Intervention (i.)
by Ronaldo Wilson
Prayer for My Unborn Niece or Nephew
by Ross Gay
Snow
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Teach me I am forgotten by the dead
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
by Jack Gilbert
The Multitude
by Ellen Hinsey
What I Am
by Terrance Hayes
Poems about Living
"I'm afraid of death"
by Kathleen Ossip
A Toast
by Ilya Kaminsky
Another Elegy
by Jericho Brown
Ashes of Life
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
August, 1953
by David Wojahn
bonne chance de lycée
by Buck Downs
C'est La Guerre
by Danniel Schoonebeek
Characteristics of Life
by Camille T. Dungy
Corpse Flower, Luna Moth
by Daniel Tobin
Costumes Exchanging Glances
by Mary Jo Bang
Daily Life
by Susan Wood
Difficult Body
by Mark Wunderlich
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
En Route
by Darcie Dennigan
far memory
by Lucille Clifton
First Things to Hand
by Robert Pinsky
Flowers of Rad
by Sampson Starkweather
Forth Into View, Random Warriors
by Pattiann Rogers
from Oracles for Youth
by Caroline Gilman
from Two Inch Fables
by Marilyn Chin
Frozen
by Natasha Head
How to Uproot a Tree
by Jennifer K. Sweeney
I could suffice for Him, I knew (643)
by Emily Dickinson
I Have a Rendezvous With Life
by Countee Cullen
I Know A Few Things
by Stuart Dischell
In a Landscape: IV
by John Gallaher
In Betweenness
by Pierre Joris
Insomnia
by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Life
by Joe Brainard
Life is Fine
by Langston Hughes
Little Night Prayer
by Péter Kántor
Living in Numbers
by Claire Lee
Lost and Found
by Ron Padgett
Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus [excerpt]
by Denise Levertov
Meaning
by Carl Dennis
Meditation 29
by Philip Pain
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
My Teacup
by Alli Warren
On Disappearing
by Major Jackson
On Living
by Nazim Hikmet
One Train May Hide Another
by Kenneth Koch
Past Inclemency & Present Warmth
by Eryn Green
Poem Excluding Fiction
by Noah Falck
Preparation
by Effie Waller Smith
Primitive State [excerpt]
by Anselm Berrigan
Roar Shack
by Alice Fulton
Samurai Song
by Robert Pinsky
Song for Future Books
by Joanna Fuhrman
Songs of a Girl
by Mary Carolyn Davies
Sonnet
by Bill Knott
Spent
by Mark Doty
sugar is smoking
by Jason Schneiderman
Summer in Winter in Summer
by Noah Eli Gordon
Tear It Down
by Jack Gilbert
The Clouded Morning
by Jones Very
The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz
The Life So Short...
by Eamon Grennan
The Old Stoic
by Emily Brontë
The Pain
by Laura Kasischke
The Secret
by Denise Levertov
This is My Life
by William Stanley Braithwaite
Thoughts
by Walt Whitman
Thrown as if Fierce & Wild
by Dean Young
Variation on a Theme
by W. S. Merwin
Virgil's Hand
by Francesc Parcerisas
What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
What Wild-Eyed Murderer
by Peter Meinke
What's Left (Al-Mutanabbi Street)
by Katrina Roberts
Where I Live
by Maxine Kumin
won't you celebrate with me
by Lucille Clifton
Yellow Beak
by Stephen Dobyns
[I'm not with my]
by Joshua Beckman
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On the Gallows Once

 
by Kofi Awoonor

I crossed quite a few
of your rivers, my gods,
into this plain where thirst reigns
I heard the cry of mourners
the long cooing of the African wren at dusk
the laughter of the children at dawn
had long ceased

night comes fast in our land

where indeed are the promised vistas
the open fields, blue skies, the singing birds
and abiding love?

History records acts
of heroism, barbarism
of some who had power
and abused it massively
of some whose progenitors
planned for them
the secure state of madness
from which no storm can shake them;
of some who took the last ships
disembarked on some far-off shores and forgot
of some who simply laid down the load
and went home to the ancestors
About this poem:
"In Awoonor's last poems, death is a constant source of meditation and reflection—the prospect of it allowing him to not just assess his own life, but the life of the world around him. Here, there is a marked sense of despair that is tempered only by the fact that in death, after crossing yet another river, he is able to talk to the ancestors and ask them hard questions about the legacy of human folly despite the occasional acts of genuine humanity. Awoonor has no answers to these questions, but as a poet, he must ask these questions. The gallows is the perfect symbol of a death that is precise, known, and inexorable, and the poet writes with the certainty of death as an urgent path to seek clarity, illumination, and wisdom."

—Kwame Dawes






Reproduced from The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2013 by Kofi Awoonor by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2013 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska Press. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 20, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.
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