Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
Featured Writer



We arrived in the windy city thirty minutes ago,

two hours delayed.

No apologies.

Many passengers are missing their connections,

but I opted in for a sevem-hour layover

to enjoy the midwestern feel, after all.


Never seen a substitute plane in the US

until today, a generic plane,

with no United Airlines on it.

I tell you, flying in and out of Central PA

has its upside.

There’s always material for poetry.


Have you ever heard an airline attendant say,

“We will be delayed

because the plane’s computer is telling

us that one of its engines

is very low on oil?” Yes, low on oil,

like a car, like something


that needs ground to ground it,

like a motorcycle. And then a technician

comes on board, screws things in,

while he’s on the phone.

Thirty minutes, he’s still screwing

the plane together. By then, I’m saying


the Lord’s prayer, the 23rd Psalm,

the 125th Psalm, the Bible. I’m calling on Moses

to part the Red Sea for me.

I want to grab my husband,

and run, but good old, trusting husband

and comfortable Americans are sitting


there, waiting for a screwed-up plane

the way Americans wait. Silent, staring,

comfortably eating a donut,

sipping a drink, unlike me, this Grebo

woman who has seen death over and over.

Finally, the teenage-looking pilot

needs a bathroom break, and he runs


to the restroom. And another 15 minutes,

the tech person leaves. We take off,

bumpy, a Canadian plane,

I realize, and now I’m thinking of a lake,

where we can land, but the landing,

bumpy, clouds, Lake Michigan, inviting,


but thank goodness, the young pilots forgot

to dump us in its blue foams, Lake Michigan,

blue, beautiful, and polluted,

but it’s still Lake Michigan.

When I grow up, I want to be a fish,

a big blue fish, if I ever grow up.





I Come from a Country where black people

still call themselves Americo-Liberians,

still cling to cotton plantations.

Their heritage, they say,

clinging to a history of how they

came from America to save

the heathens of these African shores,

to save the “primitive” Africans

who needed Jesus so bad, white

slave masters sent

their sons by the enslaved women

to save Africa from sin.


After more than a century, my people

still trace their roots to the Mayflower

that brought them back to what

is now called Liberia, land of liberty,

this alien land, called Africa,

as if this ‘alien land’

was not the home of their ancestors,

the movement of black people,

our people, dragged across

the continent in chains, leg to leg,

arm to arm, neck, locked onto

hundreds of other necks.


I come from the land where millions

of our people were snatched

from their kingdoms, from kinships

and home and tradition and life.

Black people, hauled onto ships,

and when they fell ill, were dumped

into the Atlantic, black

with my people’s blood,

and for hundreds of years, the Atlantic’s

surging and rolling in anger,

as our people were dragged

to cotton Plantations,


where the soil is still red and hot like the soil

at home in our one country,

the irony of history when it is untold.

I come from a country of brokenness,

of silent histories, the secrecy of slavery,

a fear that holds the captive, captive

forever, because slavery only begets slavery

and hate begets hate.

I come from a country where my people

that I love still call themselves

Americo-Liberians, as if the children

of Israel would dare

call themselves Egyptian Israelites.




This is what November looks like,

dark, cold, unforgiving,

and as pure as a dead body,

finally purified of earthly possessions.



Earthly burdens,

the need to rise and work the fields,

the tilling and gathering


the living do.


November of yellowing, red

leaves, giving up so the snow can come,

birds, packing up their wares

for warmer places,

and my neighbor’s leaves, coming

home to roost

on my lawn.


Even the hills around me, the Alleghenies

giviving up their beauty

the way a woman gives up

her waistline, her deep smile,

her loveliness of body

and walk

to bring new life into the world

in birthing chambers,


the way daylight gives up its ghost

to the night.

November is coming upon us

like our dead past,

and over the hills, darkness

at 9  in the morning.


Night does not need to work hard,

since morning has become the night.


Our world, closing in upon us, like

folding palms, like


the dying of the already dead.




Before that first shot is fired,

before that first bloody rocket


on our home

before the first house explodes,


there is peace, calm, the quiet morning

mist settling over the hills,

the outskirts


of the city,

filled with people, laughing, living,


colorful flowers, daffodils, roses

flaunting their fragrance and their

thorny beauty.


Before some tyrant somewhere

breathes his first fiery words

and before


he wields his sword

at the innocent, who were about


their business, school children

in the schoolyard were running

around, chasing a ball,


mothers, standing

somewhere in a nearby park,


watching their toddlers at play.

The world was at work setting

the world right.


And then, that tyrant

war-maker, that bloodthirsty giant


of evil things, that maker of refugees

and creator of poor emaciated bodies,

maker of dead


bones, that power-greedy

monster decided to manufacture

war, to send his rockets to schoolyards,

to rip up people and buildings

and streets


and towns and life,

houses exploding, and suddenly,


the school yard is bereft. Supermarkets

in the city and the village roads

and the birds


and trees and life

and explosion, explosion, and war,


war, war, war. And then, long lines

of desperate people carrying small

bundles, hungry children,


the blessings of war,

so immense, and then finally, all of life

dies, just so war can live.




Oh, Liberia, sometimes,

I just want to lay down the Grebo Mat,

and wail from dawn

to sunset, yes, to weep for the country

where the old women dug a deep hole,

in Dolokeh, and buried my umbilical cord

so, I would not stray from home,

so, I would not lose my way,

so, I would come back home

again, and again.


So I would carry this country

in all of its dirt and flaws, its soil, its waters

and all of its swamps, all the bloodiness

of our wars, the roaring of an ocean,

so angry, the ghosts of our wars,

lingering at sandy shores of the Atlantic

at night. So, I would carry this place

in all of its sorrows, its inability to rise

out of the scars of the war that sapped away

the fresh palm wines


of our youth, driven us from home, eaten up

our years and our children who were birthed

at the roadsides during the war.

All the losses left with us by warriors who

didn’t even know why they fought.

Thirty-three years since the war began,

and I’m still learning the language of ghosts,

the banging of aging pipes, the rattling

of paper walls, aging glass, and the windows

of my home in this alien land.


I’m still learning to live among the living,

but all the ghosts

from my homeland are still searching

for a home to rest their weary souls.

At night, they gather along the blue

Atlantic, oh Liberia, land that has forgotten

the hundreds of thousands you sent

to early graves, those you massacred,

oh, now, how so quickly you have

forgotten to remember.