Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Libations of Remembrance in Aruba

Libations of Remembrance in Aruba

By Dannabang Kuwabong

(All around.                         blue emptiness.                         then Aruba.)
This poem then is a libation to remembrance of those who sleep
Who sank below the waves swinging between Aruba and Ghana!
Denu sea waters hug this dark flat stone of thorn bushes and cacti,
The natural bridge linking Mpalaba to Aruba is crumpled now,
And trepidation becomes my foothold as I step over the violent waves,
Below the left-over crags and hollows of the broken bridge,
Where Natalee Holloway may have liquefied with the torrents,
Refuse from distant lands lie harnessed and reassembled,
Telling of how other things may have arrived on this land of look aside.
No matter what they call it and say about it in tourist brochures,
About how Eden is recreated on this rock without salt or rain,
Except these altars of volcanic stone erected to cell memories,
To African or Arawak ancestor who lived the nightmare of conquest,
As they dragged their chains towards those “great houses” of pain,
I build an imitation altar with seven square transparent stones,
Make an offering of unremembered penitence on my behalf,
I without memory of what blood may have been shed on these shores.
My oblation of dried crab is received in the mists cast by angry waves,
Ringed by dancing rainbows puffed from narrow shafts below rocks,
Only the bleached bones beneath the Atlantic bed remember the sankofa.
I lean against an artificial mastiff of broken boulders,
Observe mini altars dotted across the sands of the coastline.
I am reminded of the similar clumps of earth and stone angels,
Running along the crooked highways of coastal Ghana,
My companions with whom I share no cultural histories,
Whip out their toys of remembrance and flash take erasable photos,
With no intellect to register the meaning of moaning in sea waves.

The tour guide bullies us into the tale of fossil rocks,
Yaps about black rocks with holes that breathed lives,
As Aruba sprang like a squat giant from a trouble sea,
Or the sighs of the last gasps of Arawaks or Dagaaba slaves,
As they stroke the waters between Curaçao and Surinam,
Or behind Watapanas bent Westward by whipping monsoons,
They hid memories of the Eastern routes of their origins,
Eating kadushi and drinking bringa mosa bush medicines,
What else could they do without momoni  and dawadawa?
To whisper their names on these yatu with the lips of seida
Carve ritual faces on ayo rocks that rise like mushrooms above the plains.
I am a child again at Falantan mushroom anthills of Nanville,
Where we played games of hide and seek as our cows grazed,
But the scripted faces on these Quadiriki Caves tell of mourning,
Carved rituals to ward off despair from the days of massacres,
Carved curses for bibbers of history at Bushiribana mines,
These litter Arikok National Park on this sun-basked and windswept isle.
The ruins of a pirate fort relabeled pirate cove for the dollars,
Are being restored for a royal pilgrimage by Queen Maxima of Holland,
Roused sudden in search of lost glories among neglected backyards,
Aroused in search of propitiation without absolution’s penance,
In these new temples of delight for those bored with life at home.
I dip my tired feet in the sea and pay homage to those that left Edina,
With hopes of freedom in death by drowning or life in whiplash,
The salt water breaks my bondage to despair and the vision of dying,
I arrive at the shadow of verdant peace on Baby Beach
The Ghanaian-Dutch sister who names it her empowerment project
Paints plural pictures of dream re-departures from Aruba to Akwawa
For those who seek new burial grounds on the plateaus of Abuakwa State
And I must remember to write this also down as I depart for Ghana
This poem is a libation to remembrance of those who sleep
Who sank below the waves swinging between Aruba and Ghana!


Dannabang Kuwabong

Dannabang Kuwabong hails from the Nanville in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Currently he is a professor of Caribbean Literature in the English department of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. He has four books of poetry including: “Visions of Venom” (Accra: Woeli Publishers, 1995); “Echoes from Dusty Rivers” (Hamilton, Canada: Capricornus Enterprises, 1999); “Caribbean Blues & Loves Genealogy” (Toronto: TSAR Publications, 2008); “Voices from Kibuli Country” (Toronto: TSAR Publications, 2013), and a collection of folktales titled: “Naa Konga and other Dagaaba Folktales” (Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 1992). He is presently editing a selection of poetry for publication.

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