Middle of the Atlantic Stories

Tricia Ferdinand
Obaasema Magazine

Ibrahima Kaba, better known as IBé, sets the tone of his poetry book Bridge Across Atlantic immediately with the haunting poem “When Night Fell”. With lines like “There are worse things you can do to a man than death / and lately on the faces of my fathers, I see it long before they cross over”. This poem reverberates, rings like the knell of a bell leaving echoes of the pain it describes in its wake. The poem is all the more poignant for its reality, more moving because it describes the real pain felt by someone who must have experienced the rebel insurgence in Koindu, a city in Sierra Leone, in 1991. Like this poem, much of the book is quite true to life. And then there is the poem “Orphan” which is just as heart wrenching and beautiful in its painful longing.

But these poems are not all about pain. There is hope and pride here too, as well as a celebration of ancestry, a delight in culture. Amongst pages there is an obvious love of self, of the African continent and it countries. This is the spirit of “Mon Pays”.

IBé writes as though he exists from different points of views. First he is a blood diamond, the “reason sons conspire to kill fathers”, and next he is Africa who “is as tall as Kilimanjaro.” But the truest words of all seem to come from scenes that may be bits from IBé’s own life. He is heartfelt, almost home sick on “African in America” as he describes the double-ness of living in a country that often neither acknowledges nor respects the place of his birth. He is honest and thoughtful in “College Daze.” He is sincere and tender in “It”, “Three Little Words (Not Said)” where he says “This is me / Giving you all I have / Hands up in prayer / On my knees begging you please / Don’t be mad at me” and in “A Pass Beneath a Bridge (On a Stormy Night)” whose refrain “You jump and flip / Then you fly away / My heaven gone so soon / I could die today.” He is intensely romantic.

The best description of these poems, however, is inscribed right on the back of the book. It says “These are Middle of the Atlantic stories / Build one brick at a time, from Africa to America / And in that journey there is pain, there is sorrow / joy / mourning / it is celebration / It is beautiful / in every sense of the word.” Indeed.

Pick up a copy and take this journey with him across the Atlantic because, “We are all immigrants/Some more recent than others/ No matter/We’re all American.”