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Footpaths of Thought: Poems by JKS Makokha

I. Kilos of Bones

How many bones will it take
to construct our very own
towering statue of liberty?

How many kilos of bones,
pure white primatish stones,
will it really honestly take?

How many for a national statue
far FAR taller than that of Kimathi
or Jomo on their thrones of stone?

How many for a statue so high
that it crests the towering rooftop
of our colonial capital city’s centre?

How many in our nation’s mecca
for a statue macroscopic from the sky
to tourists of all nations jetting down?

Imagine a statue of bone-white splendour
shimmering in the heat of a tropical noon –
a spectacle to folk of all stations flocking it!

Imagine such a statue guarded by GSUs,
red-beret paramilitary with GPMGs
ring-fencing this hallowed icon of a nation!

Imagine such a colossal national statue,
our ethnicities solidified in kilos of bones
staring heavenward – a giant dying christ!

Imagine the graves or say quarries of bones
we have harvested each season of election
and what a world wonder we too can build!

Come on! Isn’t it is such a statue or its little imitations
mounted nationwide that’ll like light towers to sailors,
perhaps guide us home after electoral ego-trips to Chaos?


II. At the National Name-Calling Ceremony

The sudden death of a mother is sad
sadder still is the death of a motherland.
There comes a time when a nation
can be killed by its citizens’ emotions.
We stand on the cusp of such times now
seeking names for our ill national mood
We cannot continue in silence to brood
as nameless emotions deep within us
afflict the only land we both call mother.

Let us take a stand on this matter
and names of our emotions utter
aloud for all to hear and know
before we both boil over like boils
and burst in violent viral convulsions
infecting the beloved motherland
with a terrible nameless illness
that will swiftly bring demise to all.

So let us give them names,
these furious flame-like emotions
hidden in our hearts and homes.
Let us call aloud their names
this very moment without shame
in our rural tongues and urban sheng’
in our national and official languages
thus exorcising ourselves by knowing them.
Shall we?

Let us name them, fellow citizen
both you and me, fellow citizen
these things within, fellow citizen
that stir with hot life, fellow citizen
and like a ripe ulcer, fellow citizen
chews awning holes, fellow citizen
on bonds that bind us, fellow citizen
to us and us to the land. Silence.
Shall we?

It is our duty to call these feelings
out aloud by their real names
and help friends in our world
diagnose causes of our dis-ease.
This collective conspiracy of silence
meant to hide the deadly illness
in the body of the motherland
if not stopped of our own choice
and our hidden fears given a voice
the feelings in our hearts and homes
will ripen and erupt like a volcano of pus
bringing death to both the land and us.


III. Relatives for Hire

Nowadays strangeness is normal
in the ailing nation of my birth.
The strangeness of our normality
is a case of the fittest shall survive.
Let us take the common example
of the lucrative business of death.
New service-providers daily emerge
since the economy entered the ICU.
You have now probably heard on radio
that funerals are the new big venture
where dwindling hopes or investments
can be injected with instant new lives!

Take the example of my relatives
who sold their ancestral graveyards
to invest in the shares of the only
funeral service of its kind around.
The service offers relatives for hire.
They wail wildly – but without tears –
at funerals of daily dying beloveds.
Of course services on offer vary.
For example at an extra little fee
the wailers can find litres of tears
to impressively wash away your loss!

Normal work days here start at dusk.
When a weak sun faces its own death
that is when the wailers to work set.
They approach a client homestead
like strangers of any normal village
then halt abruptly by the broken gate,
wear their make up or mourning faces,
then storm, as if amok, the compound
like a new band of real blood relatives
wailing elegies to the dead bread-winner,
calling in dirge a name newly crammed,
extolling the sweet bitterness of death!


IV. Scent of Riverside Grass

Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.
Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.

Let us relive the lost afternoons
under the Lusoola as they swayed
in tune with lows of the full oxen,
with our adolescent backs upon
the scented furs of  dry dale grass
adorning the native earth around us

Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.
Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.

Let us together like lovers’ limbs
twine in the warmth of memories
and re-enter that world of leisure
when tender shoots of kewa grass
our tongue buds tickled and teased
as we lazed young under a lazy sun
listening to the rhythms of puberty.

Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.
Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.

Let us wallow in puddlets of dung
freshly smelling the scent of grass
eased by home-bound humped ones
as they lazily with rise-fall of hooves
startle mating bugs, birds, ladybirds
from their various acts of free sex.
Let us re-follow them flute in mouth
singing bull-fight songs to strong bulls
that plough the virginity of our earth
to forever give us harvest and health.

Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.
Let us. Let us. Let us. Let us.


V. The New Breed

Yes we are the new breed
in a new age of lives linked
via technologic telepathy.

The voice between our ears
is elder and wiser than that
that speaks between our lips.
The voice between our ears
speaks in the idiom of silence
yet its speech is the strongest.
It is this vital noiseless voice
between our ears we all use
whenever we email or sms.

Behind our shut pairs of lips
we stop the voice of words
then use that between ears
which speaks only in thoughts
to compose facebook notes
or write emails or smses.

Yes we are the new breed
of a new age that lives by
new technological telepathy


VI. Footpaths of Thought

They are winding and somewhat narrow
these paths our evening thoughts retrace
when we after work abandon somehow
the daily weight of worldly affairs.

When in crowdy evening company
of commuting city strangers,
many are the moments
you and i
opt to take solo walks within
along these footpaths of thought
in the company of our selves.

Retreating from cold city pavements,
where man and machine vent and
step on toes or tires of each,
we choose to withdraw from public reach
each evening minute we meander

in the maze within our roaming minds
in conversation with the tiny voice within
us as we saunter on these footpaths within.


VII. The Book of Life

she stood penciled
on this page of
pain in the book
of life as her tears
black watery stains
flushed into oblivion
down a casino toilet.

she stood so still in
heels steel of hue
holding her life
as she did her
eye pencil –

she stood still as
fractured mirrors and
walls of wise graffiti
hugged her tight until
all her liquid hope was
out and she knew
it was time a new
image to draw
of herself.


VIII. Leadership Styles

A pot belly above
hollow bowels
howl below –

Twin pot bellies above
as hollow bowls
hold below –


(c) JKS Makokha

Image: Wiki Media

JKS Makokha
JKS Makokha
JKS Makokha is a Kenyan writer living in Berlin, Germany. He is the author of Reading M.G. Vassanji: A Contextual Approach to Asian African Fiction (2009) and co-editor of a new volume on African literary criticism, Negotiating Afropolitanism: Essays on Borders and Spaces in Contemporary African Literature and Folklore (2010) with Jennifer Wawrzinek. Makokha teaches courses in African and South Asian literatures at the Institut fur Englische Philologie at the Freie Universitat Berlin.


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