I go home every night, barefoot, walking,
running. Sometimes, I’m driving my car,
and suddenly, the car is gone.
So I trample like a lost child,
the dark iron rocks of Monrovia, where
the word corrugated, must have got its name.
Over the hills, where old gutters run
like small streams in between dilapidated
houses, jammed into one another
like the sheets of an old book,
soiled and spent, the way a woman is spent
by the unforgiving years of childbirth,
her breasts, flattened, the way you flatten
a sheet of dough for the oven. I go home,
where small, half-clothed children
run in between old, tin houses
of tarred, melting roofs. The children
and their make-believe war, their tiny feet,
pelting like rain, but I go home, holding on
to my long lost heart. Underneath
my blankets in my dream world,
it is after school or before school, the hot
Monrovia sun, melting greasy sweat
on the bare backs of children
who may never grow up, may never see
those teenage years, children, with fathers
and mothers, but parentless still.
I go, now my car is lost again and my
purse, also lost, and no one can say
how I got here from the smooth roads of my
too peaceful neighborhood, here in America,
where only a neighbor and her dog
may walk by, but I’m home.
Home, not to this decade, where I have
survived it all, the war and the torture
of hundreds of thousands, death
and near death; instead, I go home to the 1960s
of rugged Monrovia, almost virgin
and unspent, where I’m that small child,
running in between small houses
in Bishop Brooks, tomorrow’s grease
upon my bare back, Monrovia of the poor
who did not even know how poor they were,
did not even know how much of tomorrow
had been snatched away before dawn.
But somewhere in between the river
and the ocean, life is silenced.
I’m in my blue and white uniform now,
a high school teen again, with my own burdens
and fears without knowing I’d be so far away
today, I’d have to travel thousands of ocean
miles in my sleep to find my mother’s grave
at a gravesite, now lost.
If your mother dies while you’re on
a journey from home, in flight from bombs
and crumbling buildings, the fires
and the long line of starving refugees,
why should you also have to lose the grave
in which you safely laid her bones?
But I go home, where my father, so aged,
worries and worries, scared, his one child
is no longer there. Some days, my phone
rings and rings because somehow,
Pa has told my siblings that I’m ill and in bed.
So one by one, they call, wishing
I’d tell the truth, wishing I’d live long
enough to bury this old man I once
assured in his mother tongue, in promises
made from wet dew drops.
The early dawn upon the green brush
of Tugbakeh. My Pa, who has lost the world
he built around himself with break walls,
a yard, so fenced in, it keeps the hot
blazing sun away and out,
so high, rebels marched through, carrying
guns and vengeance, leaving death behind.
I go home, again and again where,
I do not have to seek the sun, but everywhere,
the world is so familiar, I do not need eyes.
Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a survivor of the Liberian civil war, immigrating to the United States in 1991. She is the author of four books of poetry: Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, Becoming Ebony and Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa. Her fifth book of poetry is forthcoming. She has won several awards and grants, including the 2011 President Barack Obama Award for her poetry from Blair County NAACP, the 2010 Liberian Award for her poetry, a Penn State University AESEDA Collaborative Grant for her research on Liberian Women's Trauma stories, a 2002 Crab Orchard Award for her second book of poems, Becoming Ebony, several artist grants from the Kalamazoo Foundation, among others. Patricia has been a featured Poet and speaker both in the US and internationally, and her poetry has been critically acclaimed by many reviewers and scholarly publications worldwide. She has also published dozens of individual poems and memoir articles in many US and international journals and anthologies, including the New Orleans Review, Crab Orchard Review, English Academy Review of South Africa, The Prometeo Magazine and in the Bedford/St. Martin’s Approaching Literature: Writing, Reading, Thinking, 2nd & 3rd editions, among others. Most recently, her memoir article, “Erecting Stones” was published in Coal Hill Review.