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On Grief | Tryphena L. Yeboah

On Grief | Tryphena L. Yeboah

On Grief Tryphena L. Yeboah Agbowo Best African poems

ISSUE 8 | JANUARY 2024 | WOMAN ISSUE


For Esther

I do not pray for three days after I hear the news.
It is not anger that keeps me from turning to the Lord,
but the absence of will. I do not get out of bed.
The blinds stay down, and it is good that way,
all the sunlight hitting a wall. A blockage.
Which is also what I feel lying here flat on my back.
I study the ceiling. It is all white and rough, and too
high to stretch my hand to touch it. I am trapped here.
Unable to move. Something pins me down. I do not
know what to call it but the evidence of it is in my arms
and legs—numbed to uselessness. I am in the belly of a
dark, terrifying thing. I should say something. Do something.
But I can only think of you. Your hands kneading flour.
Your feet in the grass. All green, all lush. A promise of more.
Your face, your smile – this is all I see. You are not here,
but I can hear your voice, calling my name. It is so clear,
so soft; you could be right next to me.


I remember your lips moving in quiet prayer:
Lord, take this pain away from me.

He plucks the thorn, and the rose too.
Uprooted. A deep hole. What inhabits this gap? Do not tell me
to go on my knees. To plant. To hope. There can be no good harvest here.
There is a lump in my throat. A rock sitting on my chest.

How can this be? Where are you now? And what will happen to me?

Each question takes a different shape and fills up the room.

My chest rises and falls. My lungs expand.
Alive. I am and you’re not. Inhale. Stay that way.


Before anything else, I have to believe that this is true:
Your body is a body that is still.

Your body is a body that stops. Everything stops—
not just the shuffling of legs, or the closing of eyes,

but the heart too. A body that can’t take, can’t give, can’t feel.

No more dancing. No more laughing. One thing ends and look,

a million little deaths. Something to bury.

How dare you ask me to dig the hard earth.

To make a different kind of room. Underground. Hidden.

To slowly let down something I used to hold.

To keep it away from the light. From the living.
Empty. All of it. All of me.


Tryphena Yeboah

Tryphena Yeboah is a Ghanaian writer and the author of the poetry chapbook, A Mouthful of Home (Akashic, 2020). Her fiction and essays have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Commonwealth Writers, and Lit Hub, among others. She is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing.

Photo by Claire Kelly on Unsplash

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