The Ark Upon High Tide & Other Poems

Beah Batakou

When I Look at my Reflection, I See Ouidah on a Rainy Night.

on a rainy night bereft of mortals and their remains
there is nothing more wondrous than Ouidah. a
soft white like the underbelly of a fish hangs in her expelled breath &
the sky drapes a shawl about her blessèd face.
in the foggy rustle heaven unlooses itself into the neighbouring ocean &
at the border upon the shore, the wind weaves hymns through the palms.
on a rainy night bereft of men and their sins
there is nothing more wondrous than Ouidah. a
celestial silhouette above the horizon; moon at her summit &
a majesty in state decked in flowing cyan robes; with such glorious countenance,
there is no question about her womanness.
when I was sixteen years old, I joined a group of young Methodists
on an evangelical expedition in the back of beyond. as I remember it now,
we placed upon ourselves the yoke of a seven-day prayer and fasting to allow
the Holy Spirit to reveal our true spiritual condition.
I remember the nights spent, back curved forwards
arms wrapped around bent knees. hunger held me captive.
when my body had become soft enough to fall off its skeleton,
the crust broke away from my eyes; giving way to maelstroms of an ivory hued emptiness, a
coral tinted expanse like Ouidah on a rainy night.
I have the softness of water in my contours and coral in my bones.
I have moved in all the ways wild waves dance.
there’s something in me that lives in Ouidah.

Guiding a Psalm 

a prayer is uninhibited at the altar

and the space between our mouths a pilgrim’s colony.

long ago, our hungry lips tore holes
in the emptiness searching for civilisations
outside our bodies. now, it is 12am and

God is a solitary notification
in the darkness, his sanctuary is the distance between
a half-bitten apple and the rest of the galaxy,

we no longer await Pentecost.

now we bend fire in our palms and –

under star-speckled blankets

blest bodies bracket heat like candle protectors

dark clouds billow out, up – guiding a psalm
from one land to another.

The Ark Upon High Tide

Once as a child, I hid in a wardrobe on a Saturday morning. My back is too broad to fit now, I cannot hide. I have come of age and my body is an ark welcoming by twos all things in which is the breath of burden. Those that enter – male and female – enter as time has commanded. Now, anxieties spool out of my chest like a pregnant frog in a vernal pool. The rain will fall unrestrained, and I shall –

ride upon the high tide float in city floods plan escape from burning buildings fall from summits crawl up a skyscraper forget myself lose composure feign confidence rebel get broke lose a job find happiness break down in the emergency room bury a beloved have an abortion fight with the police go on a march beat up a thief be beaten in a fight have regular panic attacks get therapy get into a drunken brawl snort powder fight with my father cry with my mother hold my sister to my breast carry my brother on my back make friends find sisters in arms wrestle with my weight get married miscarry find love in hopeless places cuss out the patriarchy get addicted to social media have 10 tattoos and 20 piercings travel the world hide in my room be a plant mum chase the sun dance in the rain fall down the stairs and in the madness find method –

when it’s over, the floods will recede, the sky will close and the fountains of the deep will become shallow springs. Then I will become a child again, hiding in a wardrobe on a Saturday morning.

Beah Batakou is a Ghanaian poet and legal practitioner. She is an alumnus of the 2021 Mo Issa Workshop and co-author of The Ocean Between Us. Her work has appeared in the CGWS Series, Equanimity, and in The Big Yellow Post.

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to get our latest stories, poems and essays!