Routine Drugs I—For Eldred Jones

By Ama Ata Aidoo

They had asked me—
 
a worthy friend and
a loving brother—
 
to “stop shouldering
the world’s troubles,”
—one meaning Africa,
the other women—
 
                                           “learn to
                                            laugh and
                                            live!”
 
I grow hot:
 
thinking that
laughing?
 
That’s easy:
it’s all we do instead of
crying.
 
And since there’s
so much to cry about
we laugh and
laugh and
laugh.
 
                                            But
                                            living?
 
You could tell them
that’s not easy.
 
In a real life
in a real world
perhaps.
 
But here
where
on a bare belly
for less than a cedi,
 
you gathered
in single pieces and
carried
ten bushels of
solid stones
your four-month-old baby
straddled on
your back,
 
slipped,
fell
broke your
arm—?
 
Laughing we do for
fear of
crying.
 
Living
we don’t discuss
here.