Memory Letter #1
Dear Kelewele Seller’s Kiosk in Achimota that we would drive to at dusk, during those extremely red Accra sunsets, the air thick with kerosene smoke and the acrid smell of wood-fire burnings, the twisting narrow road growing darker and darker with first shadows and the absence of sun, our Rover 3 litre, grey and squat on the road with its red upholstery and purring engine, dipping and rising out of the potholes as we drove through flatland where small villages littered the roadway, and little children would sprint around or adults would walk in that dreamlike state of laborers after a day of cutting wood,…
washing clothes, guarding factories or with the determined pace of churchgoers, in aqua colored dresses and brightly colored suits, bibles in hands, faces glowing with sweat—dear Kelewele Seller’s Kiosk, burlap bag on the ground, kettle pot oven, black with the glow of red coals in the belly, pipping deep blackened pot filled with sweet oil from the emissions of ripest plantains, seasoned by tiny bulbs of insanely hot red peppers, frying to a deep brown crispness, before being pulled from the oil and placed in newspapers, the sweetness and tartness filling the air, making our mouths water, making us greedy and careless about biting in before it has cooled, the blistering inner cheeks, the pepper flaming this the more, and yet our whole bodies growing warm and giddy with the deliciousness of this treat, this special gift of our father, this bribe he would make so that we would be occupied, satisfied, while he spent hours drinking gins with his cronies in the senior common room, the way it made our mouths alive with sensations that will last for a life time, a taste that still, to this day, can make my mouth water with the memory of hot peppers, ginger, caramelized plantains, the back and forth of people buying the kelewele, arguing, gossiping, laughing, minding their own business; Kelewele Seller’s Kiosk, in Achimota, in Ghana, in West Africa, in Africa, in the Southern Hemisphere, in the world, in 1969, in the last century,
I have not forgotten you.
Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of the country, citing in a recent interview his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (2007)...