Saturday, December 10, 2011

Born Beautyful

They confused us with propaganda songs and happy, marching children
And even though we hardly understood their speeches we followed them
We bought their free gestures of benevolence with our free support
And then it became hard to realize what was happening
Because whatever the case our hands were in with theirs
So we were grateful for the blurred lines of justice
And tacitly ignored our collective guilt
                What if the beautyful ones have always been here
                But the waters were too murky for them to see their reflections?
They told us to be quiet and we were quiet, cheer and we cheered
We lined the streets waving, smiling as they drove by
The lingering dust thinly settling on our clothes
And disregarded  the questions forming in our hearts
Of broken promises and lost ideals
We couldn't ask them for what we had always known they wouldn't give
So we stood by them choosing to be loyal fools over powerless intellectuals
                What if the beautyful ones have always been here
                And our visions were too distorted to recognize them?
When another set of children are born
We will see the better tomorrow we were supposed to create in their eternity-sized beautyful eyes
But they will watch us squirm from the truth and hunger after lies
They will inherit our fear
And when the circle becomes full again, bursting with new hope
They will expect of their children what we expected of them
To be beautyful without a blueprint.

** Peom inspired by Ayi Kwei Armah's novel "The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born"**
 The novel expresses the frustration many citizens of the newly-independent states in Africa felt after attaining political independence. Many African states like Ghana followed similar paths in which corruption and the greed of African elites became rampant. Corruption in turn filtered down to the rest of society and the 'rot' that characterized post-independent Ghana in the last years of Nkrumah is a dominant theme in the book. The novel provides a description of the existential angst of the book's hero who struggles to remain clean when everyone else around him has succumbed to 'rot'."
** Little known fact: The title of Armah's book is inspired by jazz artist Branford Marsalis' album also titled "The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born". I love the "Y" in beautyful! And I love this album cover too.


  1. The relationship is the other way around. The book came out in 1968; the album in 1991.