My great great grandfather’s head
looks nothing like my great great grandfather.
It’s placed on its side, in the Wallace exhibit,
in a museum in London. Oval-eyed, life
sized golden face with a cracked-open skull.

The description reads: It probably depicts a defeated enemy from a different ethnic group.

Not “probably.” I know this head.
My family’s head. Ghana-gold the same
as the ring my father gave me with the signs
of the two angels he says watch over me.

The description reads: The head was taken by British forces during the Anglo-Asante war.

What is the utility of a detached head,
if the utility of a head is determined
by what it is connected to?

A sign reads: The museum is not responsible for personal property stolen or for injury to persons or personal property.

Then who is responsible for my family’s head?
For our headaches?

In Twi to say I have a headache, we say, me ti y3 me ya
which literally means my head is paining me,
which means I am suffering from my head,
which means the head is a source of grief,
which means my grief is the distance from Ghana to London,
which means when the head is moved, the headache spreads.

I look as much like my Zambian mother
as I do like my Ghanaian father. The trick is
which country you look at me from and for how long.
The trick is who angles your head. The trick is whether
you believe a man can grow his likeness inside a woman.

There are no pictures of my father as a boy,
just as there are no pictures of my great great grandfather.
My father is the boys he once was and the men that followed. I know
my great great grandfather’s face through my own and the man in it.
The men in my father’s face show up in mine; I have their headaches.

Akosua Afiriyie-Hwedie

3rd Place Winner of the 2020 Emerging Poet Prize

"In this poem so much power arrives from the author's ability to orchestrate form and content so that the whole is a symphony. "My great great grandfather's head / looks nothing like my great great grandfather" it begins, going from the London museum to the horrors of history and the present, from Wallace exhibit to the unending headache, which is, of course, also a heart-ache, history-ache. Which means, as the poet tells us, that "grief is the distance from Ghana to London". It is remarkable how much this poem can do, as it allows an epic proportion unfold in the lyric form. Very moving and beautiful." — Guest Judge, Ilya Kaminsky  
Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a Zambian-Ghanaian poet who grew up in Botswana. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. She is the winner of Button Poetry's 2019 Chapbook Contest (Born in a Second Language, forthcoming in 2021), as well as a Hopwood and a Meader Family Award. She is a finalist of The Brunel International African Poetry Prize, The Palette Poetry Spotlight Award, The Furious Flower Poetry Prize and Wick Poetry Center's Peace Poem contest. Akosua has received fellowships from the Helen Zell Writers' Program, Callaloo and the Watering Hole. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pank, Kweli, Obsidian, Birdcoat Quarterly, Wildness, The Felt and elsewhere. She is currently working on her first poetry collection.