Cherbo Geeplay, Liberian ListenerArtists & Reviews 

Cherbo Geeplay’s poetry:  like full-blooming tropical flowers


By Dag Walker


Most of us are far too busy organizing the latest details of the upcoming quarterly financial report for corporate headquarters to piss away our time on things like soul auscultation. Bills to pay, take the car in for a tune-up, consult the caterer for hors d’oeuvres for the party. Listening to the sounds of the soul? What is that?

The best I can do is refer you, gentle reader, to poetry; and the best I can do with poetry is to refer you to Cherbo Geeplay!

I posit that one may hear the sounds of the soul and that such is possible in listening to poetry. Souls are unique, and poetry sounds are unalike. But, therein are sounds of life, if one is true to the poetry. Cherbo’s poetry, I find, is a convection of time and being, the mix of Kru/Grebo and English languages that present to the listener of the soul a uniqueness and quality one seldom finds in the hurly-burly of Modernity. Too much noise.

We can’t listen to the souls of living beings. The new, the strange, the unexpected, those soul sounds are not even available to us when we are awash in noise.

Tis a joy and a wonder to listen to the soul of another being. Poetry. Attune. One must make the grinding gears of the world be still in the mind. Then, maybe, one can hear the soul.

“Now” is, according to some expert or other, one-millionth of a second. We live in chunks of time, not even so much as seconds. To slow time to the point of understanding our state as we live it, we resort often to the frozen moment of letters, in some cases, of poetry. Otherwise, we are lost in the blur of vapidity. The nano-seconds of existence are made real for us, perhaps, in a poem.

I was sitting at a quiet riverside cafe one afternoon with a 40ish woman I knew, a woman who dressed like a teenage girl, a biology doctoral candidate from– of course! — California. She was flirting with a confused young man, he seeing the conflicting signs of a woman old enough to be his mother, a woman who was attractive to his young eye, and a woman who was obviously intelligent. He was a handsome young man, and the woman encouraged his attentions. He dropped names of various well-known writers, hoping to impress the girl-figure with his erudition. “Herman Hess*,” he said.

It’s a small point, I know, but I corrected him: “Hess is the war criminal. You actually mean  ‘Hess-ah,’ the writer of not very good books. And so it went, the boy becoming increasingly frustrated with me, and me not noticing the woman smirking. “Henry Miller,” the boy said, though I don’t recall that it was germane to our conversation. “Don’t like his work much,” I said, “but I recall one line, “Be still, like the humming bird.”

I missed, somehow, the entire dynamic of the ritual of boy and would-be girl playing in front of me. I’d been focused on poetry. I missed the life of living. I missed the sounds of sex in listening to the sounds of the soul.

One can be attuned to the sounds of the strange, Grebo poetry in English, for example, translating the soul sounds of Liberia, Knowing the small details of Kru-Grebo is interesting to the reader of Liberian poetry. Knowledge makes the experience of Liberian poetry deeper for one who has inside information. This is not for everyone. But, the transcendent sounds of the soul? That truly is.

Cherbo Geeplay, poet

We cannot know much about life because it goes by too fast and there is too much detail missing in the rush. Like a river flowing past, each drops a thing in itself that we do not grasp at all. The river, yes, but only in its part as here and now, gone before we can sense its churning surface. So, I say, “Poetry.”

This observation comes, keep in mind, from a man who is clueless about the nature of most things, even so, simple as a young man happily lured by a cynical old woman preening. Listening to the sound of the soul means not hearing the sounds of other things within the nano-second experience we mostly miss anyway.

Oh, not to worry. I am sure that if the woman really wanted to toy further with the boy that she managed all too well. He must have been pleased, assuming she followed through while I, my mind ablaze in ideas of transitory being, remain abuzz like the hovering hummingbird, Cherbo Geeplay’s poetry drawing me still like full-blooming tropical flowers. The article was first published by Smart News Liberia

About the Author: Dag W. Walker is an American writer currently residing in Quito, Ecuador. Contact:


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