Three Poems by Claudia Owusu

Claudia Owusu is a senior Creative Writing major at Otterbein University with minors in Film Studies and Race & Ethnic Studies. Her work has appeared in Quiz & Quill, Otterbein University’s Literary Magazine,, 20.35 African Contemporary Poetry through Brittle Paper, and Ohio’s Best Emerging Poets 2017 and 2018. Her short film, Zora (2017), was showcased at the Nkabom Literary Art Festival in Accra, Ghana and Lome, Togo. Her favourite book, if she had to choose, is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; and her favourite song, if she had to choose, is “Hey Baby” by Stephen Marley.

Drown or Drought

In Taifa, pee-stained bed sheets hung out on the line for the world to see

we spent our school break waiting for rain

& then waiting for a ride to the beach

when the rain came first we ran out in herds

to retrieve the clothes from the line

& then we built a well

we descended into its mouth

pulled up rain water by the buckets

& heaven really was the little circle of sky that blinded

the echo of our voices slapped together with laughter

even when our toes were thick with grime

even when mud lotioned our forearms like a second skin

My Granny’s Face in the Harmattan Storm or the Body Against the Water

after Eva Cassidy


the beach was a monster granny always said to keep away from but all we wanted to do was wade

be part of a cool that we could see our midnight skin take part in

something we could sift through our gums & have the salt of flesh bite back   the water

be heavy but the land be even heavier  horses trailing its lines where all the children

keep from being trampled & I got grandma in my ear pulling me down the street & through the thick bends of harsh Accra traffic  she probably elbow deep in charcoal the

black familiar the way she sits us in dark corridors by candle light  mourning the dead.


a man of God shuffles through orange dirt on a Sunday’s noon

2 muscular women down the road beat up a thieving man in front of our house gate  

my cousins siblings & me pick a neighborhood fight by the well water who’s that young girl flying through disaster like a missile fire burning so fierce in her eyes   buckets of water cascading till the ground lay dressed in bruises & none of us knowing whose end would come next that we lunged for each other first  our bodies tattered in the howl of a wild dog’s red throat

the noise be thick the havoc be long  just good enough to wade in

it collapses into our homes no different than the water  the way my granny’s heart must be

the way her lungs must’ve weathered the storm: and look at us, we be the children Moses would’ve left in the wilderness. all bathed in asphalt ashes & led by the revolution into God’s arms for safekeeping  hell it’s all gonna be trouble from here & the only thing that deserts us first is the water

All I Listen to These Days

is afrobeats. No jazz, trap, or reggae can do me right & every convo in the group chat is about the latest hits, about Wizkid’s vow of commitment, Kwesi Arthur’s grind for holiness, & Stonebwoy’s reach for a love he can never seem to hold onto    long enough

& maybe home is a song I can never stop humming  maybe home is loose language held together by some sort of electrifying bridge   see there the black body’s everlasting dance see there how it fills up an otherwise empty stage    I think home & I want to fall into the arms of a stranger beside me  home & I rest my head on the hardness of collarbone  home & I confess “love me still” “make my tongue able”