Rashidah Ismaili was born and spent her childhood in Cotonou, Benin. As a teenager, she married and moved to New York City. Over her career, she wrote poetry and short stories, taught and counseled. I read her poetry collection, Missing in Action and Presumed Dead. It’s a beautiful collection. Even when I was unsure of the meaning, I was struck by the powerful imagery, as in the final stanza of the final poem in the collection, “Correctus Historum”:
We will once again since our old songs
of joy. Call our gods to come to us
in a language we understand. And we
who have given to others so much,
give to ourselves our strength.
Our best. And beg our gods to
give us more to give to this world
we make with our own hands.
Of course, once in a while, I come across a poem that feels like it’s written just for me, as in Ismaili’s “Diaspora-1”:
“It is a mystery we are not sure to solve.
There is so much data to collect.
So many variables to consider.
We have read empirical studies,
comparative literature. They tell us…”
This is book #44 in my effort to read a book by an author from every African country in 2019.