Sleep without wake: Poem Analysis

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Poem: Sleep without wake

Poet: A.A. Amoako

“Sleep without Wake” is a poem that explores the grief associated with losing a mother and the breaking up of bonds between a mother and a son.

This article will highlight the poem, line by line explanation of the poem, themes, literary devices, mood, form and structure and some questions and answers.

Sleep Without Wake

Children love their mother’s breast milk. This line shows that the narrator depended on his mother’s breast milk for sustenance.

This line explains the comfort and care provided by the mother, with the gentle touch of her finger soothing the narrator.

It relieves him from his pains in times of sickness.

The “Night” represents the struggle and stress the narrator’s mother went through during difficult times with her baby. The baby becomes sour when he’s not feeling well or in discomfort.

The narrator refers to himself and lets the reader know that he is the baby in the poem.

The narrator reveals the exact date he lost his mother.

He describes the disappearance of his mother, using metaphorical language like “morning mist” to show a sense of mystery and sudden separation.

These lines tell the reader that the narrator does not know the cause and time of his mother’s death.

This secret is kept in her wooden box(casket or coffin). She is the only person with this knowledge.

Korlebu is a well-known hospital in Accra. The poet uses the Korlebu cord to show the final separation between himself and his mother.

Thus the umbilical cord which tied him to her mother at birth is finally cut off.

The narrator shows the reader another connection he shares with his mother. The poet is the first son of his mother and his mother in turn is the first daughter of her mother. Such is a special thing they share together.

Kwabena is the name given to the poet. The name Kwabena is an Akan name for a male born on Tuesday.

Learning how to walk is a major event in the life of a young child. The persona’s mother was there to support her child to take his first steps.

Taa taa and tuu tuu is a playful language used by parents to encourage children to learn how to walk.

This line also reveals the name of Kwabena’s mother which is Maame Tutuaa.

“A long chilling month” depicts one month at the morgue. His mother had changed from her natural state to an unattractive and sorrowful state due to the preservation of her body.

Her body changed from a solid state to a soft state. After the ice had melted away, she still couldn’t move.

The poet compares the image of her mother to a sculptured bride. The sad appearance of the lifeless body causes sympathisers to watch and cry.

The last conversation the narrator had with his mother was at Odumase before her mother’s demise.

Did Maame Tutuaa know about her own demise? What made her say those words? These words sound like a warning to what is about to happen.

The narrator had difficulty in understanding her last words to him. The words seem to have a hidden meaning which would be revealed later.

Themes in the Poem

  • The grief associated with losing a parent: The narrator mourns his mother because of the undying love and affection he received from her.
  • The bond between a son and a mother: The poet shows many instances of bonding through shared memories and parental guidance.
  • The struggles and stress of being a parent: It is not easy being a parent. Parenting has its own problems such as lack of sleep, worry, anxiety etc. The poem highlights some of these points.

Literary Devices


  • The night kept Mother awake


  • Sleep without wake.
  • Wooden box: it means a coffin.
  • You vanished into the morning mist of April.
  • Thus severing the Korlebu chord between you and me.


  • Mother’s milk gave me suck
  • Your face frozen into a grim visage


  • Premier son of a Premier daughter


  •  Taa taa tuu tuu in your maternal steps.


  • Taa taa tuu tuu, in your maternal steps.


  • Still, inert, immobile like a sculptured bride.
  • “Go in peace, It looks like rain”


  • Sorrow
  • Regret
  • Separation
  • sympathy

Form and Structure

  • The poem has uneven lines with no end rhymes.
  • It uses flowing sentences, where one line connects to the next. This makes it feel like a continuous story.
  • The poem unfolds as a narrative journey.
  • It uses metaphor and imagery to blend themes of maternal love and separation.

Questions and Answers on Sleep without Wake

1. Kwabena lost his mother in which year?

2. Into a grim Visage(line 19)means….

3.Identify two lines which describes mother as caring and gentle.

  • You put me through my infant paces
  • Mother’s finger soothed my skin

4. Mention two themes of this poem.

  1. The undying love between parents and their children.
  2. The pain and agony of losing a loved one.

5. What happened in April’s last days, 1998?

6. How long ago, and where, did mother say,”Go in peace, it looks like rain”(line7)

7. The phrase: Premier son of a Premier daughter(line 11) refers to whom?

8. What is described in the poem as: Still, inert, immobile like a sculptured bride?

9. Name two literary devices found in line(15) Taa taa, tuu tuu, in your maternal steps.

10. What is said to be…..Words as auspicious, puzzling, portentous,(line28)

11. Where did mother vanish into?

12. The poem Sleep without wake is about whom?

13. Sleep without wake as the title of the poem is an example of which literary device?

ANS: Euphemism


George is interested in self-education, knowledge building and self expression through writing!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Salifu Mohammed Siisu Badimsugru

    Your appreciation of the poem is concise and comprehensive. Meanwhile remember to always add the name of the literary device suitable for the poems based on what they convey. E. g “sleep without wake” and ” a wreath of tears” could be named an elegy respectively in the appreciation aspect or the literary device section. Thank you

    1. George

      @Salifu, Thank you for your concrete observation. You are a real one!

  2. Patience Nankong

    Thank you for your insight. But I just want to know the Diction used by the poet, A.A. Amoako. Thank you

    1. George

      @Patience, The poet uses simple words at the start of the poem but as the poem progresses more difficult words are used.
      Also, words such as “Ga shikpon, Maame Tutuaa and “Odumase” helps the reader to become aware of the setting of the poem.
      Again, words such as “grim visage, inert, immobile, sculptured and frozen paints an imagery of a dead body without mentioning it directly.
      The diction again makes the reader aware of the feelings or mood of the poet.
      Expressions such as Korlebu cord, premier son, go in peace and last Odumase words shows the poet still griefs his lost mother.
      I hope this helps @Patience