The Defiants

by Kwame Dawes

In Northern Ghana, a tribe,
small as such tribes go,
of soft-spoken farmers
and women who upturn

ancient proverbs to mark
the passage of time, to cast
new myths and legends
each passing generation;

they have learned to defy
death, eating the cooked
soft flesh of the ackee—
something that can kill

quite violently if the pink
filament of leathery
flesh, caught like blood
remnants between

the lobes of the fruit,
is eaten. What is for-
gotten in the miasma
of colonial amnesia

is that the small tribe
brought this fruit
whose tough skirt
opens when ripe

to expose precious flesh
like a woman revealed—
that they brought
the gleaming seeds,

black as cowries,
to Jamaica, and planted
them with so many
memories, and loves

and gave us oil-rich
protein for the starving
death-defying people
who then became a nation.