So I Stand Here

So I stand here, an outsider at the doorpost.

They say thresholds are meant to keep


the outsider out, the insider, in, crickets,

forever creeping along walls, along the edges


of things. You must first lift your right foot,

and then the left, and then enter the hut,


before the kola nut is served, before

the spiced pepper is offered, and the water,


from the stream, handed to you. This is

the way of things, the way of life, clay to clay,


your hand holds not just a cup of water,

but the source of life. Tradition. So, now,


the outsider is an insider, but everywhere

I go, my country people are now a different


people. I know because my eyes see what

is not the norm of things. Do not tell me


that these corrugated old dusty roads have

emerged of themselves out of the war,


or that the new songs these strangers sing

in this now strange country of ours, are


from the time before the bullets. Do not tell

me that the kola nut you served me will


answer all of the questions that linger

in my soul. Do not tell me that I belong


to this new people. I have wandered away

too long, kinsmen. I have wandered so far,


my feet no longer know how to walk the old

paths we used to walk. I do not know these



people, birthed from the night’s passing of lost

ghosts. I do not know these people who have


so sadly emerged out of the womb of war, out

of the pain of war after the termite’s feasting.


My kola nut has lost its taste, and the spiced

pepper, now, with a new spice. I am too impure


to meet my ancestors, and the gourd of water

I have just fetched from Ngalun weighs heavily


upon my head. I stand at the threshold, my

kinsmen, come and help me over the doorpost


the termites have eaten. I do not have the hands

to greet my ancestors. I do not have the hands


to greet my kinswomen, and the hands with

which I take hold of the kola nut, is shriveled


by travel. The kola nut you served me is no

longer bitter to the taste, oh come, my


kinswomen, the horn blower has lost his voice.

But they tell me that the horn blower does


not need his voice to blow the horn to let me in.




In My Dream


In my dream, I’m on the road, flying

somewhere, stranded at an airport.

I’ve lost my car or lost the keys

in my lost purse.

Or I’m in the airport security line

without my passport, a lone traveler

without a country.


So they want to know my country.

They want to know my place of birth.

They want to know the map that got me lost.

They want to know the name of those

who shattered my dream,

shattered my lost country.


So I say, I’m a woman looking for home,

displaced, a bag of useless goods

for my journey, a flip-flap, a ragged

bundle that only a refugee carries.

I’m the lost and unfound, from those

who did not come on boats,


those that did not come ticketed

in chains, those who did not fit in chains,

those, neither welcome by those who came

neither on boats nor in chains. I’m among

the newcomers, the new, newcomers.

Those who came, ticketed


not by plane tickets or train tickets.

Those who came ticketed by live bullets,

grenades and rocket missiles,

those, still bleeding from their sides,

those who found their way here

by crawling among the dead.




The Cities We Lost

After they left, rainy days came back

to find us

among the ruins, in a city

resting on crutches.


There were the cliffs as if falling.


Old cliffs, old town, old villages,

the far wanderer, even the birds would

not stop looking.


The forgotten bones came alive, rising

on wings and black wandering feet,


then came looking,

for those taken from among us,

for those of us left to fade into air.

On the road,


a child was looking, sharp jaw

bones, tiny hands,

no need for crutches. The child had

become her own crutches of thin legs


no voice to carry away her legs,

no tears to open up her eyes to the sun,

as if she no longer needed voice.


But she thought I was her mother,

at the roadside.

Maybe I was her mother,


sitting there, by the roadside,

and looking up at me,

as if to follow this stranger that I was,

but how could I claim her


in the ruins that we had become,

amidst the bullets and rebels,

the suffocation of death

and the dying.

Death was more alive than us.


I Need Two Bodies

One to sleep and the other

to shuffle, push and grind up the day.

One, to bend a rod,

and set the world upright,

the other, to cuddle the earth

so it holds on to its hold.


The one to inhale and the other, to exhale.

To lie down upon freshly dewed grass,

the orange red sun, dying down slowly

in my other body’s eye.


I want my other body to drive like

a stubborn engine as stubborn

as a woman, after middle age,

my other body, standing on metal legs,

ready to grind

a large day downhill.

To empty these muscles of aching

pain down some drain.


I want my working body to sigh

and stand firm to all the battles

a woman must wage

against the grind of unsuspecting

roadblocks. One body, to be


the everlasting pull against push,

my one body, unbridled, legs,

as concrete as lady liberty’s

on a cloudy morning.

Her gazing eyes, upon

my old tired face as I sit

on a far ferry into the city

quiet, as sleep.


Then, my sleeping, eating,

resting body, rising out of unnecessary

things, tells this old one, “be still,

be still and know that I am you.

Be still, and know

that I am Woman.”


Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s exploration of her Liberian civil war experience in her poetry has won the hearts of poetry and peace lovers internationally and throughout the United States. She is the author of four books of poetry, and a fifth forthcoming, including Where the Road Turns, The River is Rising, Becoming Ebony, Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa. She is also the author of one children’s Book, In Monrovia, the River Visits the Sea. Her individual poems and writings have appeared in numerous literary magazines in the US, in South America, Europe and in Africa. She teaches Creative Writing and English at Penn State Altoona.


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