The Heron's Nest

Volume XIX, Number 3: September 2017

Editors' Choices

Ramadan dawn...
the sound of pestles
pounding yams

Barnabas I. Adeleke
Okuku, Osun State

deep winter
the sacrament
of flannel

Ann K. Schwader
Westminster, Colorado

The Heron's Nest Award

Ramadan dawn...
the sound of pestles
pounding yams

Barnabas I. Adeleke

In eight words Barnabas Adeleke has created a complicated yet beautiful image for us to share. The sun is about to rise, and a characteristic sound reaches his ear. While I am not Muslim, I can appreciate the religious practice the poet invokes with his first word. Coming with the sun is a day of strict fasting. Just more than half of Nigeria's population is Muslim. Ramadan lasts for a lunar month, but it is not really a seasonal reference as historically it has been celebrated in all months. "Ramadan" is also a melodious word, with its "d" sound echoed in the second word. Barnabas treats us to another nice natural alliteration with the letter "p" to begin two words. This is not a stretch because it is what pestles do — they pound.

Effective style aside, the haiku is about perception of a sound... preparation of the evening meal that will break the fast. While I might not recognize this sound, it is a part of life for this poet and he makes it available to his readers. Since there is more than one cook, he may be in a common cooking area, or perhaps walking down a street past a number of kitchens.

Why are yams being pounded? In Nigeria, much of Africa, and in many countries of the world, starchy tubers are a large part of the human diet to include white and sweet potato, cassava, etc.. Dug from the ground, peeled and cut into chunks, the white yams are boiled to be tender. Then they are put into a mortar and pounded into a smooth consistency that can be handled. Mortar and pestle are ancient tools. I am not sure what Barnabas calls this yam preparation as food. I found both iyan and liyan but there are regional and country differences as with most food recipes. Perhaps not in Nigeria, yam paste served with soup or stew is also named fufu.

There, my own experience is intersected. My daughter and her husband when in their 20s traveled in Ghana for ten days [and had a wonderful time]. Back in Brooklyn, NY, she visited a Ghanaian grocery store for yams and advice to replicate what they had been served abroad. She cooked it but wasn't convinced her fufu was as good as the Ghanaian chefs had served them. By all accounts her stew was delicious.

Asking about fufu, I showed her this haiku and her comment was "Beautiful poem!" The Nest Editors agree.

Paul MacNeil
September, 2017


The Heron's Nest XIX.3 (9-2017)

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