THESE ARE THE OPEN ARMS
by Ralph Geeplay
These Are the Open Arms
You woke me up
when I was dead,
teaching the night
stars wantonly to obey
the Atlantic; then slashed
my arteries in flight
to Lake Piso, humbling
its boundaries, before fusing
them calmly to a gel.
When the elders speak
in parables, it is a mix of
pepper soup which the fufu
welcomes and surrounds.
As the deer is trapped
in the undergrowth,
so does it waits to be strapped.
—These are the open arms
to the farms, mucking the
deserted mansions decked
in chocolate nuts, covered
in honey; the lost spectacles
of yesterday now over.
Once gowned with cluttered
cow-webs and peppered
with shrubs, this, before
the revival of the
grimy walls, serenade
and greened with lilies
whose aroma calls
from a hundred miles
to the carpenter—the tool
man and his bride waiting to be
announced as the sun swell the
hilltops, smiling to the boats
sailing on smooth tides.
Moving quietly to fair waves,
the clouds crushed, hovers,
washing the mud away,
freeing her from the rocks,
bathing the earth
and taking away
the dust disguised as chaffs.
the yacht’s inviting voice is
heard throttling along
—between hearty murmurs,
chuckling to the weaving
currents, curving the Atlantic surf,
dancing fervidly, where the fires
meet the pits of burning woods.
The hearth in a melody on the
placid shores of Sinkor, intimately
as Monrovia grins to the Atlantic.
Bewitched, racing to the beaches
is a sweetening of the surf stones.
The shells humbled under the rocks.
In trance, the turtles are running
with the whales, the currents,
silvery, the smell of salt water
overpowering, yet elegant. Your
slender sailing finger rubbing
my rough ankles brings comfort.
—You woke me up when
I was dead, teaching
the night stars wantonly
to obey the Atlantic bay,
like seashells humbled under the rocks.
Africa, this sun drenched bliss,
come to Botswana and see
the terrific translucent creeks
of Okavango Delta, as it blends
with the sun rays and glistened.
Let the unmistaken eyes
catch the stretched neck zebra,
graceful—game in the name
of Africa. Its beautiful furs
decorated in broad strokes,
rising in circular waves, from head,
to hind. Now feast your eyes
on the herd of elephants and
the desert radiant landscape
of the Savute — Africa, oh Africa!
The motherland ever so enchanting;
the beautiful safari,
and her handsome subtropical
wasteland, home to the Kalahari.
Then the overstretched sandy, salient
Desert, as she greets the Tourag of Mali.
Supple as their camels, nomads
and traders of the Sahara.
The colossal evergreen forest,
wildlife, and plateaus of Liberia.
From palm to palm, crystal clear
beaches along the Atlantic, vista.
Thrilling oasis of waters from
the Congo to Lake Victoria.
The land of my Fathers and its
stunning rapture—Africa, oh Africa.
Let me glean with naked eyes the
loveliness of the Table Mountains
in Cape Town, and live in Soweto
for a day, a borough of feisty warriors.
To stomp my feet as they do when
they dance and protest unreservedly.
In the land of the quiet giant, who took
on and beat Robin Island with glee,
then crushed it to dust in one palm.
Spectacular chronicle for generations.
The land of the Pharos,
The beautiful—Africa oh, Africa!
I can touch the rhythm of your beats,
and sense the chirpy throb; the music
streams it currents to my pulse, the
hair on my skin rises, the trumpet
ricochets, filling the room, seizing the
passages in my veins! I am drifted,
to the swings of the melody, the
harmony synchronizes, its bliss is
on the hill which now fills my mind!
A bass once stole my dancing feet,
Whistling away on the veld in Witbank.
Oh, Masekela. With my snapping
fingers, the pulsating tempo is curving
my arteries, there is feasting in the
fields and a Grazing in the Grass, the
herds with nudged cadences can
barely hold their joy, feeding off the
Jazz, synchronized with Kuti, Makeba,
and the gifted Huddleston.
Your trumpet wore the piano, and a voice that
seduced the dancers, caressing to
melodic sway, rings the saxophone-man,
whose fervor tenor blasted, then won
against Apartheid, now drives away,
leaving me, to an empty room, to
which, sits a set of idle instruments.
Who is going to stroke the trumpet?
And beat the bass, and own the saxophone?
Where his shiny flutes once breathed,
now silence pervades to rust
laden winds. The gadgets left behind
glossed with silvery gleam beckoning
to be picked up from the stage that
once flung them to being in Soweto.
Is it true that Pepper birds live in
those hoary tubes, singing beautiful
strains, whistling to the moon?
Or that in your opus, love invites a
romantic ocean filled with golden surfs,
laced with cords of grooves? Which drifts
softly to the waiting night, to be picked up.
In the music I know, there is hope
flying on the horizon, with no brawls in the
way to hinder its flawless trail,
now lost on the stage that once
flung them to being in Soweto
[in tribute to Huge Masekela:]
Farewell to Ellen
It rains so much in Monrovia
that a day is like the bloated dough
on a grey earthly May, washing
over October. My love, the sun, hides
in her bright den refusing to be seen.
Life comes to a slow twiggy motion;
the forest is breathing with moisture,
like a hut puffing smoke as a pipe.
While the creeks bridged their ledges, 09
there is a seismic run-down Waterside!
Enough, no more, the sewage can take!
She is in my arms, listening to the music
pounding the roof. Still, calm, reading
Ebony Dust, though, with lightning bolts
yelling to be heard. The clatter is like
a rumble—tumbling falling rockets.
The sorry corrugated zinc holds her seams,
the bed is dry, but the room is a puddle. 18
The city is cramp and damp, like a soaked
sponge dripping with water.
The hustling contested old city in
an evening fog, the Mesurado in
a bulge, taking Fanti fishermen
to and fro, to the edge of Westpoint.
To love in the midst of mists,
of raging thunder under your ears
and an air filled with blithering 26
vermin, is to drink a linctus in
anger, cooped in wretched penury.
So when the wait, cannot wait
to be over, you my love must endure,
waiting to part with the wrath the rains
imposed, much needed however,
to calm the California wildfires,
gifted on these shores, for free. Now:
you understand, then,
the irony of nature! 36
About the Author :
Ralph Cherbo Geeplay was born in Pleebo, Southeastern Liberia, West Africa. He is among the younger Liberian youth who were forced to attend college during the brutal Liberian civil war. Geeplay, studied at the University of Liberia, majoring in Journalism, and while still a student worked in the media during the 1990s, starting in radio broadcasting at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), the national radio, and later worked with Radio Liberty before freelancing with Radio Monrovia where he worked as a producer and reporter. He later transitioned to the print media, particularly, with the Monrovia Inquirer Newspaper, where he worked as a senior staff reporter. Geeplay published his first set of poems in 2009 in the Liberian Sea Breeze Journal, edited by Stephanie Horton. His themes include: Africa, the Liberian civil war and its tragedy, his Grebo heritage, and everything in between. He is the editor of an online journal, The Liberian Listener, and lives in Edmonton Alberta, Canada, with his family.