Pa Amadu Kamara on 19th November 2019 photographs of the descendants were shown in the Guardian holding returned pictures of their ancestors We have come again to the town created out of red earth and prayers. Every historic road leads back to the body and you say, show me, show me the past. In the trenches of history Pa Amadu holds his ancestor into light. I am not supposed to weep at this. I am not supposed to name the past, so I can witness it, sometimes the years we run away from are the ones calling us and I see the men, the numbers held above their heads, the numbers used to identify them, I see the ledger of trauma, the colonial book of naming. In open space, Pa Amadu holds his ancestor, smiles for the camera. Again this begins a journey and you say, show me. And it is there, a son and a father, both paraded before an audience, both asked to stare back at humanity, to become human and you say, show me. The Dead after Yannis Ritsos Graves do speak to those who listen, they do speak to gravediggers, those who stand at the threshold of life, preparing bodies for departure, and in their conversations, the dead are silent. Alone, what remembrance they ask of us they do not say, what remembrance lies in the emptiness of bones, they do not say. So I write to them, not a song, not an offering, I write in the language of loneliness, in the only understanding we know, in the only way we interpret a man walking into the deep end of life where the dog of death barks, where marble heads lie in the open, where our prayers, like arrows shot by an unskilled archer, fails to reach, and the waters, green and undisturbed, holds no reflection, neither the pleading of our faces, nor the tail end of prayers, where it holds only the dead, only their bodies, the wetness of our grief.
Romeo Oriogun is the author of Sacrament Of Bodies (University of Nebraska Press) and the chapbooks, Burnt Men and The Origin of Butterflies. The 2017 winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, he has received fellowships from the Ebedi International Residency, Harvard University Department of English, Oregon Institute for Creative Research, and The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He currently lives in Iowa, where he is an MFA candidate for poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
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