Meet Nana Awere Damoah: The Ghanaian Voice of Objectivity and Reason

A great interview, an interesting dialogue, a thought provoking interviewer! Hallelujah!

Mum C writes

Nana Awere Damoah is my guest post for today. He is a man with brains and an objective voice. I can say he is the writer with the voice of reason in Ghana. His words “Ghanamonosyncratic nsempiisims” stuck with me from his book, I speak of Ghana where he presented all things as they seem in Ghana. I am very glad to have the honour of this interview with a true Ghanaian patriot.

NANA AWERE DAMOAH NANA AWERE DAMOAH

AMOAFOWAA:

Nana, please tell us about you, from birth to now in summary.

NANA:

Thanks for this opportunity, Mum C. I was born 39 years ago in a taxi on its way from Kotobabi to Korle-bu. My brother remembers the registration number of the taxi and says someone (I can’t remember who) won the lottery with the numbers the week after I was born! My family were staying in a compound house at Abavanna…

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Edie Sedgwick Discusses Her Early Years, a Monologue/Poem/Story/Lyric.

illustration edie sedgwickI felt I was Gloria, some angel living in her own hallucination of time. We were angels on LSD, on LPS. I was cheesecake, chocolate-dribbled, sexy & asexual, pop-rocks eye candy. Wrapped in a wealthy, yet tragic, past. DEEP BREATH. With my dreamy tones; those slow, hypnotic lyrics, my subliminal heavenly chorus of all that is female, the goddess inside us. Hypnotic, larger than life.

And so were the commercials. We really were all famous for about 15 minutes, but we couldn’t see that, all we could see was right now, right then. The atom bomb age, the Cold War, suicides, the Third World starving to death… children dropping like flies in Africa from famine. India, hit by an earthquake. Viet Nam cranking up, with war profits for the conglomerating corporations; divvying up the spoils of war. Kennedy, dead in Texas.

Be the girl all the bad boys want. DEEP BREATH. Sex turned into a Technicolor rock show, pure fantasy; turned into reality. People started living according to their own fantasies of what the world was like. The awakening grew harder; grew easer; grew harder; again & again.

Material wealth. An intoxicant. A drug. Addictive behavior. Spread it around. Moderation in everything. Reasonable assumptions? No? DEEP BREATH. Spell it the fuck out. Rules-based understanding. It takes me a long, long, long time to learn all the rules, all the techniques, all the subtleties. But when I figure something out, I have fucking figured the fuck out of it! DEEP BREATH.

I’m a dreamer; I’m a practical schemer. I’m a dreamer with a BMW; I’m a bad-ass schemer; I’m a waterlogged dreamer; I give up when there is trouble; I run like a rabbit. I dig in like a lion at bay.

Falling in love is wonderful. Once you fall in, take care never to fall out. Find something to keep your love alive… anything! Fasten on & fasten hard. In every way, so they say. Rumors fly. Determining actual facts is hard. All the shit I ever believed about myself came true. DEEP BREATH.

So, my body believes, at least. Next, to make my logical mind decipher the hieroglyphs. DEEP BREATH. Then my heart shall feel; then my soul shall live. DEEP BREATH.

It’s what Andy always used to say: artists are artists, no matter their profession or occupation or job or outward circumstances, and artists are the commodities of the very wealthy. DEEP BREATH. We’re all falling prey.

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Judy Garland and The Banana Tree, an essay


illustration judy somewhere over the rainbowillustration banana tree

A banana tree is a metaphor for life, really… it dies after it bears fruit. It gives its life to produce the next generation. Banana leaves are so useful. Useful when they’re green, and useful when they’re brown. Generation upon generation. That really is a sacred word, generation. WE generate ideas, too. So can’t WE generate more peace, rather than more war? Can’t OUR fuel be love, not hate? Yes, just like the banana tree, sometimes destruction is necessary to create new life… recycling? Reincarnation?

One way of looking at things is to take a leap of faith – decide that when WE die, nothing will be lost; everything will be gained. WE leave behind US a legacy, all of US, shaping the reality of the UNIVERSE. The UNIVERSE is alive through US! The UNIVERSE writes songs and stories and mathematics and music through US! WE are engines! WE are alive! WE are organic! WE, human beings, are evolving right this second! LIFE doesn’t stand still! LIFE adapts, or ceases! LIFE IS EVOLUTION. Trying to cling too desperately to the past is to entomb the SELF in stone, alone, buried alive, dying. WE’RE alive until WE’RE dead.

Value this opportunity. Don’t throw it away. Take care of OUR home, planet Earth. Take care of OUR fellow travelers. Send not a sword, but an olive branch to OUR enemies as well as OUR friends. OUR bitterest enemy may turn out to be OUR best companion. Only time will tell. WE live within moments, WE exist within history, and WE are passionate within the spirit. Train that energy! Use passion to create, not to destroy! Destructive passion, combined with weapons of all kinds, might kill US all. Respond to life with logic AND emotion. Let US use OUR brains and OUR gut. Instead of the falling abyss of dread, the rising flutter of joy… and at the end of life, may WE all have truly, truly, truly found PEACE.

Cue Judy Garland, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

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The Latest Fashion: New Toilettes, a poem

illustration new toilettesThe Latest Fashion:  New Toilettes, a poem

(title and subtitles from an essay by Mallarmé)

 I.  An At-Home Gown in Garnet Velvet.

I receive you at my front door, formally, immaculately dressed, delicately arrayed, impeccably scented.  You think of me as I last appeared at the beach, tousled, salt-encrusted, and burned by the sun, dusted from scalp to toe with golden sand.  You see underneath my gown a double exposure — the natural, the cultivated — which rises up so that my two brown eyes turn to four, eyes within eyes, nudity within garnet velvet.

You think of wine, the vintner’s trembling hands caressing grapes, silently pleading with them to reveal when they will give up their most perfect secrets.  We live for moments such as those, we live to take up our wine in a crystal goblet and put it to our lips and breathe the scent of rain, sun, earth and sweetness.  Sweetness which has by virtue of aging embraced its opposite — sweetness which has given birth to tart recognition.

We are both innocent as three-year-olds and jaded as madams.  You touch the supple velvet, but what you are feeling is the smoothness of my insides.  I remember the sound you made, long ago, an explosive sound which you tried so valiantly to muffle.  The report of your exhalation was echoed in each cell of my body.  Garnet velvet becomes a skin I will shed.  Nothing before was unskinned.  I will turn myself inside out, only for you.

II.  A Hostess Gown in Gray Russian Satin.

 Together, we receive cadres of admirers — come to look upon our glowing faces, hear the way we laugh, breathe in the air of passion which surrounds us.  We understand this loveliness we display is not ours, rather on loan merely, a magnification of the same electric forces which keep every atom together, proton and electron and neutron dancing their way in a wild mazurka.  Those atomic particles, those rapscallions.

My gray dress hugs my body tightly, exposing each curve, revealing my body but keeping it a magnificent secret at the same time.  When your fingertips slide across my shoulders, the fabric moans, and the assembly gasps.  I can take no credit for my beauty, only for the courage to allow it free rein.  And I count every electron of your body, I feel the whirling clouds as they circle your atomic nuclei, endlessly proclaiming not beauty, not usefulness, but truth.

Please be advised you are in the presence of ananda.  Or at the very least, maple syrup.  Even the trees know.  How the sparks flew when first we met!  We confused the friction with dislike, at least until you saw me lick my lips.  Gray satin reminds us of the cries of mourning doves, the way they’d scatter as your car pulled into my driveway.  Such murmurings as felt like satin threads, pulled through my heart.  You came to me.  I will stay found.

III.  A Frock for Paying Calls in Plum-colored Faille.

We deign to visit the world, after a twenty-three year sabbatical, and everywhere we go the air matches my dress.  The moon becomes a large opal, the sky an onyx abyss into which I fall upward, tethered only by your voice.  When you laugh, I hear my father.  I hear the way he held me, our skin where it touched on fire with longing only for more bare skin.  He died too soon, and so did I.

My skirt is cut on the bias — when I walk it moves as the tops of the Australian pines moved that day you first kissed me, at the beginning of hurricane season.  You and I ask our hosts if they are prepared, but they don’t understand.  Once, you lusted for books — 27,000 of them — 19 cartons fit into your truck, each trip.  The hardwood shelves groaned under the beautiful weight of your hope.  Please, don’t read too much into the facts.  What do the pages tell you?  Do you remember when you hated me?

It is so difficult to construct a garment on the bias, I must consult experts in the field.  I show them the dress I wear, ask, can you make me the same dress, in the same fabric, over and over.  I want nothing varied, because in this dress is all the world.  My father has been dead now for longer than I knew him.  I still see his hair, iridescent red-gold feathers, under my fingertips, my nails painted purple.  I asked for you.  I found your succulent eyes.

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Happy December!

illustration compassionThe root of compassion is this:  there, but for the grace of god, or the luck of the draw, go I.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated, were you to wake up one morning inside their life.  Let morning, and let hope, break inside your soul.

For a number of reasons, I have been called away from writing, and I have missed it terribly… and I have also missed so much here on WordPress, a truly valuable (and for me, essential)  community of dedicated writers and artists of every variety.  When I read the work of others, listen to the work of others, see the work of others in my creative “family,” I feel the reinvigoration of my own essential spark, that soul’s brightness which I cannot live without.  It is as important as air:  the eternal conversation between Minds… the desire to communicate and affect one another in a very human, very tangible, and very undefinable way.

Another writer told me once that the way you know you’re a writer is you HAVE to write!  You cannot NOT write.  You must write as you must breathe, or drink water, or eat, or sleep.  If you don’t, you become wretched, fearful, at squandering the opportunity being called into this life has given to you.  And we must not waste our time here.  There is no sin but the giving up of hope.  Without hope, we become desperate, suffering creatures indeed.

I am deeply worried about the world right now.  All of it.  All the people, all the creatures, all the natural beauty.  There is an albatross, named Wisdom, who at 64 years old is raising another chick.  We have lost 70% of our seabirds on this planet.  We risk losing Wisdom, and wisdom.  Children are suffering from endless war.  Climate change is disrupting what little stability we have managed to achieve as humans.  Violence, bombs, bullets, hatred, racism, sexism, greed… let this not be our most lasting legacy.

In December, Christians celebrate the birth of a man they believe came to save the world… if only it were that simple.  Whatever faith or philosophy or moral compass you hold within you, realize that the saving of the world begins with each one of us.  Spirit exists whether you think it’s permanent or not.  The spirit of a human life can be broken.  And yet, some people who have been through unimaginable horrors manage to go on and create, and experience, hope and happiness and human connections.

The root of compassion is this:  there, but for the grace of god, or the luck of the draw, go I.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated, were you to wake up one morning inside their life.  Let morning, and let hope, break inside your soul.

I love you all, without conditions.

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Dear Mary M. E., Class of 2016, a letter to my youngest daughter

boo and ab upside down nyc

Dear Mary M. E., Class of 2016:

How do I affirm who you are and tell you why I love you? What do I want to say to you as you go off to college next year? Why am I proud of you? What are my hopes, dreams, and prayers for you? What are my favorite memories?

Darling BooBoo, you came to me as a gift. A child I never expected to have, never even dreamed I would have — a gift from God. You helped me become a “real” mother, along with your big sister, just like the little boy helped his velveteen rabbit become “real”… you helped me become who I am today just as much as I nurtured you from birth till now. Your patience, your sociability, your love of other people, you enjoyed being the youngest in a big mob! You helped me learn, really learn the value of a strong will and a compassionate heart. The value of having a silly, infectious laugh, and a serious, contemplative side. You are a sensitive, delicate soul who deeply appreciates the joyous things in life yet is nonetheless strong enough to survive the tough times with grace.

Memories:

You were born pretty fast, and were tinted blue (now your favorite color) when you came out, because your umbilical cord had been wrapped around your neck, but the second the nurses got that untangled and rubbed you down, you turned pink and opened your eyes. You didn’t cry… just looked at everything with your eyes wide open, for an unusually long time, the nurses said.   And when your big sister, Abigail, came in to see you and reached out to touch you, you grabbed one of her fingers with your tiny hand, tightly, and you didn’t let go!

You didn’t want a pacifier, or a bottle, or to sleep anywhere but on my chest. So we slept like that for a while, barricaded with pillows so you couldn’t roll off the bed. Then you slept in the middle between your father and me for months. Eventually you were okay with the crib.

You wanted to hold your head up so much you insisted on being in a walker when you could barely manage it. You’d push yourself around, looking at everything. The minute you could crawl, you were done with the walker. You didn’t talk much, at first, but when you started it was in full sentences, and you talked a lot, about a lot of things, very curious and with a very big vocabulary… people would hear you talking and take me aside and whisper, “she’s very smart!”

You had the tiniest, cutest little feet! Your toes were like little pink peas. You were a bit of a mischievous rascal, playing peekaboo, hide and seek, chase, you name the game, you were ready. You even put on your big brother’s boxing gloves one time and wanted to play that game!

Something I wrote about you a long, long time ago:

November 5, 2001

What BooBoo said today, at Abigail’s school, where we were to drop off a bag of dressy clothes for A’s French presentation: the sky was gray & overcast, yet there was no rain, it was borderline gloomy but also very pretty in a way — she said “It’s a beautiful day today.” I agreed with her.

Later, I realized that just because the sun was behind a layer of gray, you could still tell it was there, you could still see the disc behind the gray, it still had light, and though you couldn’t see, exactly, the brightness, you knew it was there. As did my three-year-old. Faith is the key to all of this. Trust in this life, trust and god will bring you what you need.

I love you, my darling Mary M. E., and I am honored to be your mother.

Love,

Mommy

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Her Inner Life, a short story

illustration her iner life

Her Inner Life

At age seven, Ella began to wonder about her father in earnest.  A picture was not readily available.  She wondered mostly what he looked like — she hoped he was tall and handsome the way her mother said.  By the time she was ten, she didn’t want to take her mother’s word for it any more.  After a year of whining, she wore her mother down — the cracked college yearbook was finally located, at the bottom of a Smirnoff’s box buried under a stack of her stepfather’s mildewed Playboy magazines.  She had not been told of her father’s dead-end acting career.  There he was, dressed as a cowboy; a secret agent; the ghost from “Carousel.”  She did not feel she resembled him in the least, and though she never asked, doubted her paternity.

Another year or two went by before his address and phone number were procured — she paid for the detective herself out of her birthday and Christmas checks, sent by ancient relatives she’d never met.  The detective’s office was over a piano store, next to an Oriental rug dealer, across from the husband-and-wife team of CPAs she occasionally baby-sat for. The CPAs’ house was filthy, but their children glowed with vitality.  Her own house was spotless but everyone living in it wore a glum face, right down to the dog and cat.

As soon as she heard her father’s voice, she was sorry she’d called.  He sounded so superior, teasing her for wanting to be both a veterinarian and a lawyer when she grew up.  She hoped to prove him wrong.  How could she say no when he asked to see her?  No would have been cowardly.

She didn’t know what to wear — she didn’t want to seem too eager – but though she hadn’t seen him since age 4, she didn’t want him to be disappointed in her.  She decided, therefore, to take no special pains whatsoever.  She met him in her gym suit, straight from school.  He had taken no pains either, and she was shocked to find little current resemblance to his old Hollywood photographs.  Since then, he’d gone to law school and joined the counterculture.  His jeans were torn through at the knees, his feet were bare and his beard bright red, patchy at the sides of his face like an animal with mange.

He hugged her and felt thin, bony, and unimpressive.  He wanted to take her out for a meal; she lied and said her mother would not allow it.  They walked around the yard — he eyed her like a snake eyeing a mouse.  She could not decide if she liked him.  He was scary and gave her the creeps, but his hand on her shoulder felt exactly right, weight and warmth she’d dreamed of for years.  She insisted on calling him “Father” when what he wanted of her was “Daddy.”  It was too late for “Daddy.”  She could not tell him about her anger, nor did she know why it flowed from her, spoiling every glance, every word, every touch.  Her relationship with him felt doomed from the start.  What had he ever done for her except ejaculate into her mother?

After she sent him away that first time, all hippies became associated with her guilt.  They looked so pure, so much like him.  He sent her his campaign flyers for Santa Monica city council, on the Communist Party ticket, but he was not elected.  She felt his failure as keenly as her own when she was not chosen for the cheerleading squad despite smearing Vaseline on her front teeth to remind herself to keep her lips up in a smile.  She did not know that years later she would view her failure, and his, as a blessing.

When he visited her again the following year, she could not bring herself to wonder why he asked her to sit on his lap.  She discussed with him her virginity, and he advised her to retain it as long as humanly possible.  He had been a virgin until he entered her mother on the night she herself was conceived.  This endeared him to her in a way, but she was afraid to say so.

She decided the reason he’d let a decade go by without contacting her was that she had been a particularly dull and unimpressive child.  He pointed out her bourgeois, middle-class tendencies with uncanny insight; his pale blue eyes held neither love nor pity but only relentless curiosity.  She knew that her mother was the only woman of European descent in his life — he found African and Asian women exotic, and they seemed more suited to his cause.  She herself was as far from “exotic” as it was possible to be.  The bones in her face were not only unspectacular, but nearly invisible.  Yet for some reason, he decided she resembled him — perhaps it was the asymmetry of her features, neither of them was the same person from both the right and left.

In court, he was a master.  He performed a ballet of cross-examination, each movement of his limbs expressing sullen yet respectful disbelief.  He got all his clients off, even the guilty ones, and she realized this made him feel powerful over her as well.  Yet he flinched when his own clients admired her blossoming body.  He hustled them away from her, radiating his distress.  He took her out for Vietnamese lemongrass soup and steamed dumplings and labeled himself a hypocrite.  “I didn’t want that man to shake your hand,” he said, staring into his fragrant bowl.

Later, when he took her to see the Pacific Ocean, blocks from his house — just the two of them — she flung herself at him like a wave, wrapping her arms around his torso like involuntary tentacles.  She was not a girl any longer — she had become something more complicated, less pronounceable.  She hated to remember how “I love you” had emerged from her throat that day like a poisonous gas.  If she had been capable of forgetting him, she would have.  Gladly.

Her sleep became restless — back home in Florida, his spirit stood silently by her bed at night like an abandoned puppy.  She started not answering his long letters, written in blue ink on yellow legal pads — she stopped trying so hard to decipher his dramatic, lovely yet unreadable handwriting.  The letters only got longer and more frequent.

She didn’t know why he kept after her — why he had suddenly decided she was the most wonderful creature on earth.  She hoped he’d give up.  She kept trying to hurt him.  He moved to her state, then her county, finally her town.  She never called him.  He took a janitorial position at a strip club, for research, he said, and he started interviewing the strippers for a book.  She felt his attraction to her — he took her to Dairy Queen, told her he’d always been drawn to her.  At 19, she could finally believe him, not that these truths brought either of them the slightest comfort.  He planned the rest of their lives; she resented this but kept quiet — it was the closest she’d ever felt to him.  She prayed he’d go back to the west coast and recover his senses.  He listed the bar exams he’d be taking in the years to come.  They’d be roomies, he hoped.

She knew she’d have to get away.  She didn’t know how.  He took to smoking sensimilla and wolfing banana splits; he claimed his health to be pristine.  He’d re-create the past for everyone.  Meanwhile, her mother threatened to call the police if he came to her house.  She suddenly doubted ever residing in that woman’s uterus.  She doubted being content there; no silken, fetal dreams had been hers.

Occasionally she wished all three of them dead.  Their physical cravings appeared to have no other solution.  Every night, her mother ate only spinach and cottage cheese, washed down with cheap jug wine, and then vodka.  She slowly became insensible on the floor in front of the TV.  Her mother also popped pills like Tic-Tacs.  Mom journaled her drug use on small spiral notebooks in her stingy, back slanting Gregg method shorthand.  Her mother yearned most for a man between her legs just as Ella herself had to beat them off with a stick.  She advised her mother to find a man in church, but her mother stuck to bars named Banana Boat and Trader Jack’s.  Mom wept each time she drove past a church spire.  Her mother missed God more than sex.

Ella envied her father his height, his curly hair, his blue eyes, even his penis.  She remembered him showing her the hospital she’d been born in — she imagined his disappointment when no appendage dangled between her plump red thighs at birth.  She remembered doors slamming, voices raised to sharpness, and his long cool fingers driving a pin “accidentally” into her pot belly.  It was the last time she’d loved him with that selfish baby heart.

She composed a letter to him explaining why she didn’t ever want to be spanked again, then never mailed it.  She felt guilty for sleeping with the one woman among her friends she knew he was attracted to.  But she never let guilt talk her out of anything novel.  Only the familiar could be burned away by guilt.

Even fifteen years after he died, she knew why she’d never been attracted to older men, wiser men, men who could have gone to school with her father.  She remembered seeing the top of his autopsy incision over the neck of his plain blue chambray shirt as he lay in his coffin; she remembered wanting, but being too afraid to touch him, settling for touching the starched collar of the shirt instead; settling for less than she dreamed, as she always had and presumably always would.  To profess love was a lie; hate was also a lie.  She didn’t know which lie looked better; she didn’t know and she didn’t care; best of all, she didn’t care.

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