Literary Zone

When Sierra Leone was a Lion

14 October 2005 at 10:29 | 1894 views

In this poem that was apparently precipitated by the recent sudden and shocking death of Sierra Leone’s Immigration boss, Gloria Newman-Smart,one of the country’s bards laments the circumstances of her death and the other instances of the country’s gradual transformation into a hell on earth.

By Elvis Gbanabom Hallowell.


a pity not only for me but for Sierra Leone —Gloria Newman-Smart

Before now, the rainmaid brought the rain
and the sunservant too brought the rain
Before now, the country always wiped a brow
and the ocean always drank some more

The choral throat of this mammal has gone dry,
sand-dune desert of mind dragging a famished ego
between equal clock-time,
kith and kin, oasis of the broken.
A birth of ocean dances-
no need, rain, no need to palter
cloudward, O water of air
running the bottom of the sky,
no mane, no name.

When two jaws can no longer whiten the molars,
we say the tongue has lost its venom,
and then the gum suffers a cowardly lick.
Wisdom is missing from this mouth,
a yawn slips in with a breath-
germ of drawl,
germ, octave of octave,
piano knock notes:
The sing don-done for good
the stone go sing we morning hope
the land go cry again.
The sky knocks down a dove
and the country picks up a vulture

Monarch of the forest
Freetown is horrible upon your brow
left on this single path
to your heart; and this love affair
your apocryphal baptism mirrors itself back to back.
It was once said that without the day and the night
dressing you, you were not a country but a thought.
How many rocks must a lion pile upon one another
before he is made king of the jungle?

This is not the Sierra Leone I knew,
a giant with too many sores to lick.
A far cry from the urgent doxology
hymnus angelicus, the temple of the lion has fallen in.
Today a daughter has died in the new Excelsis
after the rogue politicians sacrificed her to its Babel
When Gloria Newman-smart died, Paul Kamara turned one year
in a womb dead inside another dead and a bigger womb.
Our days are full of mourning in a morning stuck inside
a father who was once a lion on a determined mountain.

Necrology of the dead, I shout you, O Harry Yansaneh
the pain of the helpless is heavy upon the trinity of the quick
and the dead, upon you Harry, Gloria, and upon Paul who awaits
the cup with a stubborn resolve.
Therefore I look also elsewhere
in the mouth of this tired cemetery eating this cavalcade of country!

Elvis Gbanabom Hallowell(above) is one of Sierra Leone’s youngest poets. His first book of poetry, ’Drumbeats of War’ has been highly received in the literary world as a significant contribution to Sierra Leone literature. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College, and is pursuing a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University