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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: In the Other World

                            For Patricia Fargnoli


Our beloved lay down and then eloped

to that other world.

            Poets, musicians, chefs, bus drivers, all,

the mighty, the small, the good, the bad

            and the ugly, all of them, lying down,

and in their dying, lose their need for us

and this world.

Sometimes, I wonder, are there any poetry

festivals out in the better world,

            where, after the soul takes leave

of all its fragments we otherwise, call “body,”

            only bones are left in the grave.

Are there recitals, musicians, bowing,

any need for long gowns,

or need to put on lipstick, arrange the hair

backwards, or flaunt your braids?

            Any need to lose your high heels?

Are there any houses with flat roofs,

            like the one on which the neighbors

used to party on my father’s roof

when I was a child?

Are there rooms for moms to sit and laugh

about their children weeping

            over their departure, not knowing

their moms were so happy, they did not

            even look back, even though they died,

wide-eyed, limp limbs, empty of all breath,

gone, gone?

Like the way the leaf flies off, the way sun

disappears behind everything

            that wasn’t already gone.

Does God take their hand, and say, my child,

forget that old, ugly world? What happened

to all those poets, gone,

those great novelists? Toni? Chinua?

What happened to Maya, Buche, Art Smith,

even Liberia’s own poet, Bai T?

            What happened to Jon Tribble,

editor, friend, darling to Allison Joseph?

Is he editing a magazine still,

in that other world? Are their poetry readings,

nights of Q & A, students, listening,

and taking notes? What happened to my friend,

Patricia Fargnoli when she

            arrived in the other world, her book,

Hallowed, in hand, and did God say, “Patricia,

you don’t need that book anymore. They all

            know how hard you worked,

those intricate verses, your love of words,

sit here, and relax, my girl”? What happened

to those who weren’t poets,

            or singers, or mothers or Dads?

Did they also find a place to sit and laugh

at the wailing we do to see them elope from us,

            the runaways to death, the ones

who left without wanting to leave?

And we, standing in awe, like a traveler, lost

            on a long journey.

How do we trust what we have heard when

the dead are so silent, resolute, teasing

            as we stand over their bodies in awe?

Is there a room where aging mothers

watch football, write a poem,

cook palm butter, bake a cake, for one to read

            a poem by a dead poet friend?

Are there rooms they lock to keep the curious

living out? What happens the first morning

            they arrive, after dying?

How do we know they aren’t laughing

at us in our tears? What if my friend

was saying, “Don’t cry, Patricia, I’m glad

            I read your book last year;

go on, find time to dance and laugh, and when

you’re ready, and here, we’ll do a poetry

            event in this better world, this green,

flowery, peaceful world, where

we do not need our books.”

Copyright 2021 Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s many books include Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House, 2020). She is a survivor of the Liberian Civil war and currently lives in Pennsylvania.

3 comments on “Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: In the Other World

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    September 3, 2021


    Liked by 2 people

  2. Barbara Huntington
    August 22, 2021

    Left me smiling. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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