Vox Populi

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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: When Monrovia Rises

The city is not a crippled woman at all. This city
is not a blind man at a potholed roadside, his

cane, longer than his eye, waiting for coins to fall 
into his bowl, in a land where all the coins were lost

at war. When Monrovia rises, the city rises with
a bang, and I, throwing off my damp beddings, 

wake up with a soft prayer on my lips. Even God
in the Heavens knows how fragile this place is. 

This city is not an egg or it would have long
emerged from its shell, a small fiery woman

with the legs of snakes. All day, boys younger
than history can remember, shout at one another

on a street corner near me about a country they
have never seen. Girls wearing old T-shirts speak

a new language, a corruption by the same ugly war. 
You see, they have never seen better times. 

Everyone here barricades themselves behind steel
doors, steel bars, and those who can afford also

have walls this high. Here, we're all afraid that one
of us may light a match and start the fire again

or maybe one among us may break into our home
and slash us all up not for our wealth, but for

the memories they still carry under angry eyelids. 
Maybe God will come down one day without his boots. 

Maybe someone will someday convince us that after
all the city was leveled, we are all the same after all, 

same mother, same father, same root, same country, 
all of us, branches and limbs of the same oak. 

Copyright 2020 Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. From Praise Song for my Children: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House Press, 2020).

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is the author of six critically acclaimed books of poetry, including,  Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected PoemsWhen the Wanderers Come HomeWhere the Road Turns, and her 2003 Crab Orchard Award collection, Becoming Ebony. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including, Prairie Schooner, Transition, New York Times MagazineHarvard ReviewHarvard Divinity Review, and her work has been translated into several languages. She immigrated with her family after surviving two years of the fourteen-year series of Liberian civil wars. She is the winner of the 2023 Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize for her book, Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s newest book, “Breaking the Silence: Anthology of Liberian Poetry,”forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press in 2023,” is the first comprehensive body of literature from Liberia since that nation’s independence in 1847. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Penn State Altoona.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

5 comments on “Patricia Jabbeh Wesley: When Monrovia Rises

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    January 11, 2023

    Beautiful and powerful poem ❤️


  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    January 9, 2023

    O.M.G., what a POEM. Powerful, moving, forces the reader to think, and so very true. I live in a town where there was a civil war and we have high walls still, live behind metallic bars, distrust each other, hope…


    • Vox Populi
      January 9, 2023

      Yes, I’ve been publishing Patricia’s work for 20 years, and I’ve always admired her wild enthusiastic passion.



      • matthewjayparker
        January 10, 2023

        Thank you for doing so, Michael. She moves me in inexplicable ways.


  3. Barbara Huntington
    January 9, 2023

    Same oak


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