What Took Us to War

Red World by Andrew Purchin

Red World by Andrew Purchin

Every so often, you find
a piece of furniture, an old head wrap
or something like a skirt
held together by a rusty pin.
Our years, spilled all over the ruggedness
of this war-torn place,
our years, wasted like grains of rice.

Relics of your past, left for you,
in case you returned accidentally
or intentionally, in case you did not
perish with everyone else.
Something hanging onto thread,
holding onto the years
to be picked up, after locusts
and termites have had their say,
the graciousness of looters,

the graciousness of termites
and temporary owners of a home
you built during your youth,
during the Samuel Doe years
when finding food was your life goal.
How gracious, the war years,
how gracious, the warlords,
their fiery tongues and missiles.

All the massacres we denied,
and here we are today, coming upon
a woodwork of pieces of decayed
people that are not really pieces
of woodwork at all.
This should be an antique, a piece
of the past that refused to die.

Wood does not easily rot, but here,
termites have taken over Congo Town
the way Charles Taylor claimed the place,
the way Charles Taylor claimed
our land and the hearts of hurting people,
the way the Atlantic in its wild roaming
has eaten its way into town
even as we roamed, in search of refuge,

the way whole buildings have crumbled
into the sea, the way the years
have collapsed upon years.
What took us to war has again begun,
and what took us to war
has opened its wide mouth
again to confuse us.
What took us to war, oh, my people!

~ Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley is a poet, scholar, public speaker and human rights activist. Born in Monrovia, she is a survivor of the Liberian Civil War.