Posted by: Viola | April 26, 2016

A poem I left at Paisley Park

So…I’ve been thinking a lot about Prince, remembering the times I met him. It’s amazing what the mind can store, in terms of memories. So many memories. I didn’t get to spend much time around him, but from the few brief times I did, certain things remain with me and are coming back to me.

For instance, I recall that while my sister was part of Prince’s NPG band, I got to visit Paisley Park very briefly, and while there, I gave Prince a copy of one of my poems. I had brought a copy along because I thought it was a good poem, one of my best poems. I thought perhaps it might inspire a song for him and my sister to work on. Or maybe I wanted them to feel that I was their peer–maybe I did it for me, because I wanted to feel that I was a fellow artist even though I do not sing or play any musical instrument. And so one evening, while visiting with him and my sister, I whipped out my poem printed on white paper and showed it to them.

They took a look at my poem, and then left it on a table in the dining section of the lounge area where Prince received guests and watched TV (sports/games, news, documentaries…). I saw the poem lying on one of the dining tables and made a note to pick it up later in the evening if it was still lying there. I figured it was a silly thing, already forgotten, because they had no need for my poetry, they had no need for my art. And what did I expect, that somehow a poem morphs into a song sung by a legendary singer and instrumentalist? Yeah, what exactly did I expect!? 🙂

Well, later that evening, it was time for me to return to the hotel/inn where Prince often had his guests stay. I went to the dining area and looked for my poem. It was nowhere to be seen. The maids who came in to clean at night were mopping the dining area. The space smelled strongly of whatever cleaner they were using. I hated that smell–it was so overpowering and noxious, in my opinion. I didn’t want to breathe those chemicals in.

I held my breath and asked the maids if they had seen a piece of paper lying on the table and if they had picked it up or thrown it away. They said “No.” They had not seen any piece of paper. They had not seen any poem lying on a table. I looked on the floor, under the tables, all around the area. No poem there. I think I even looked around the main recording studio, hoping that maybe the poem had been moved and would turn up there. I kept looking but had to stop because I was getting in the way of the women doing their cleaning and it would be weird if someone spotted me scanning around for a piece of paper. I left without my poem.

I am not sure where it went. Maybe Prince took it. It was meant for him. But I thought no one cared about it. I couldn’t understand how it disappeared. But I gave it to him. So why did it bother me when I couldn’t find it? I guess I changed my mind, maybe I wanted my poem back, maybe I felt that no one else could understand what the poem meant to me…not even Prince. I began to feel very protective of my poem, worrying what would become of it. I did my best to let it go.

I still wonder what happened to my poem. Whether Prince kept it or threw it away. I wonder if it’s still at Paisley Park. I hope he got to read the poem. I hope he enjoyed it, in some way, or at least drew some inspiration from it. It’s a beautiful poem. It’s still one of my best and most beloved poems. I am glad now that I left something of mine at Paisley Park. I was, no doubt, one of thousands of people who found their way there, over the years. I am grateful I got to be there and see Prince at home there and leave a poem of mine behind. That poem is called “Nigerian Girl with Calabash.”




  1. Thank you so much for sharing this memory. He will continue to live on through our memories. I have a feeling Prince kept it. He and family seemed to share a strong bond.

  2. Easily one of the best contemporary African poems. I too hope he kept it…

    • Thank you! I hope that some day soon, I can top that poem…and it’s interesting that it’s a poem set in Nigeria and not Cameroon…. 🙂

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