Par Tikum Mbah Azonga
(For Awan Sarah Angob Mbaku née Nkumulung)
The boiling kettle is not a threat
Although it may hiss like a snake
And Awan knows that only too well
The kettle has hissed here in her house for years
It`s like Stephenson`s locomotive
Only it does not have the wheels
But who cares?
As long as it keeps Awan`s friends-for-ever-cats awake
So that they don`t snore in their sleep
Like the drunken sleepers in Chaucer`s prologue.
Who really cares?
Is it Abu Re Fotsoh who shares a name with Mary the mother of Jesus?
Is it Engonwei Neg
Or Ni Victor who jovially calls everybody, “Officer”?
Or Ma Esther who brings goodies such as elephant meat from the coast?
Or Ma Eli the great internationalist and peace maker born ahead of her time?
Or Ni John the successor who went on early retirement?
This immobile steam engine is a curiosity for us kids
That`s why we throng to Awan`s house when we hear
The kettle is on the fire
After getting Engoh to make tea for us
With water from the boiling black kettle
Awan lights her long pipe
And inserting it in her mouth, she begins to pull and puff
Then she returns round and asks: "What child is out there?
I want someone to came and write a book
For that my Fri in the Whiteman`s land
Is Azongho there? Ask him to bring paper and pen.
Then Awan begins to dictate her letter
This is now outside in the yard, under the coffee and banana trees
She on her stool and I the secretary on the large compound stone
"Tell Fri that I saw my bundle she sent
Tell her I thank her for it
Tell her I am greeting her
Tell her I want her to answer so that I hear her voice from here
I want to hear her answer me
Tell her that I saw the gown she sent
Ask her that is the Whiteman`s country so nice
Or why does she look so much fresher and younger and beautiful
But tell her she must not come back with a white man
Those people have money, yes
But their ways are not our ways
If he comes her, will he eat achu like us?
Will he go to the farm?
Tell my daughter that I am fine, I am doing well
But that is for today
Only God knows what he has in store for tomorrow
Tell her I do not know whether she will still meet me alive
When she returns in five years
But let`s put everything in God`s hands.
Tell her I salute her
Everybody here salutes her
And tell her I love her.”