They’ll Ask You Where It Hurts the Most

Kwame Opoku-Duku


Blessed be the bitterness

at your core, that quiet light

growing quieter still,

like the dull moan that escapes

your lips while you dream.

They’ll ask you, child,

what you know of suffering.

They’ll ask you where it hurts

the most, when the pain changes

like wavelengths of light

in the evening sky, when the cries

of the ancestors ring out to you

from the ocean, when their words

vibrate in your diaphragm

like a listless, queenless hive.

You may forever, child,

feel a type of way, but you

must get up every morning and watch

the sun rise from the ocean.

Remember to love your lover,

remember the goodness

and righteousness of deep red

against her skin, the color of the ocean

on her toenails. Remember the ancestors

who praised the gods at the sight of land.

One day, child, you will join

them, on a beach in Accra,

where you will pour out libations

for those who have yet to come.

Until then, stand with your arms

stretched toward the sky. And though

termites may eat you from within,

pray to grow into a wise, old tree,

for the dignity to praise alone

the sun and rains. Pray to become

a garden, to distinguish what nourishes

us from what is keeping us alive.

Visual Art: Myles Loftin, Butterfly (2019).