Dirty Gold

5 Jan

By Panya Banjoko

To feed the demands of glitzy eyed consumers

Kofi, aged 14, chips away at the orb, to escape.

Down furnace hot makeshift mines,

he plays seek and find for £3 a day.

As he descends vertically,

12 metres deep, through dusty shaft,

an arm’s length wide, hour after baking hour,

picking his way down unstable walls,

that crushed Kwame, his predecessor, a step away from 13,

he hopes for tomorrow, forever, for today.

He might look stupid but he isn’t dumb.

He has succumbed to the will of overstuffed cats.

He knows once saturated with wealth they go

return only when appetite is wet.

Promises of schools and unsoiled water are comfort only to fools.

The key to unlock the doors of fancy high street stores belong to them,

Never for him.

He sings of fufu tonight spiced with tomatoes,

of pounded yams and plantains.

Sees mother’s smile, bright as new moon,

it eggs his old bones on.

I wish I could write about blues skies and azure seas.

I wish I could see dark-skinned heroes that lived to the end.

Above ground he surveys his find, powdered and filtered

with mercury, he watches and waits bare hand,

as gold dust combines into splendid silver balls,

spreading vile vapours that stealthily steal the next generation.

Breath by failing breath he pants into insignificance as

vast open pits swallow the earth in a gulp.

Small scale gold mines create big time problems.

Spill and spit toxic waste that seeps into sodden soil, into rice

fields, into aquatic life.

I wish that moral responsibility was more than a catchphrase

That the cradle of humanity more than a drizzle on the horizon.

I wish that the sources of profit could be de-constructed, melted,

until its origin was known.

He works a faceless GOLDSMITH in ERNEST so sister can sleep

without cradling hunger.

So designer teak chest of drawers can have hidden in their lavender

scented chests last year’s gleaming rings and sparkling neck pieces

discarded and unwanted.

He labours to stay alive,

his poisoned blood makes certain his demise will come

sooner than it should.

I sing for him a song worthy of a King

and hope and pray that one day humanity will bring

not cash for gold

but the truth as it should be told.


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