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When You Know It’s Over: Poems by Atuhairwe Agrace Mugizi

Image: Janet Beasley via Flickr
Image: Janet Beasley via Flickr


Heaven smiles, kisses the ocean;
glow worms, rare beauties, fly
over the tanks and cargo. There is
a large wave pushing
you, thousands more to the coast.

The water is warm,
free of sharks,
plenty of crabs and scorpions.

You row, and row, row;
green bucket under your left arm:
bare feet,
short breaths,
alone, amidst thousands.

You have sepulchers
along your route
to the coast: no thoughts
of returning to lay eleven wreaths.

The coast is clear.

No penny or pesa.
Only long hair, quite a fortune!
No more glory and norm.

One torch rays at the banks,
swings on. It’s your green light.
Right arm beats the water, angrily.
At the shore, you look at the old train calling.
Three steps ahead,

Then you know it’s over.



Grab your emotions, bag them.
Hold your belt,
gather your tears.

The kitchen has reached
its boiling point. Your boss has
cursed through his teeth
you can barely say a prayer.

Wave to the chef, the heat is on.
Wipe your face,
blow your nose.

This settlement came at great lengths,
you cannot have it slide.
You will not be tipped because the order is late.

And your veil is a weapon.
Though your norm is highly placed,
forget your dignity. Client first, your booty, last.

Throw your emotions, dump them.
Adjust your belt;
gather your tears.

The porcelain is broken, it’s
spilled milk. Your boss has
cursed you through his brown
chipped teeth. When he loses and
your services are no longer required,

Then you know it’s over.



At the corner of this house
was a clay water pot;
a marsh foot rug,
a green and yellow mat, 21 inches,
and dry white creamy cassava ready
for grinding.

That clay water pot broke,
the marsh foot rug rot,
the green and yellow mat rot,
and the dry white creamy cassava rot.

When the hut burnt,
the granaries thirsted; and
the grasses dried,

Then, we knew it was over.



This noise is deafening,
my drums are numb.
Dusty roads have tasted rain
in years, so have I. I despised privacy
and the solitude in my house.
I now live among many
on the streets.
It is a galaxy of nations
violated by hail and quakes.

But before all this,

I saw my neighbour dump her cat
after we ate her last rabbit. Up, went kitty.

In the air, a jet swayed easily,
with sacks of stale beefy cans leaking from its bunker.
When the pilot finally landed,
asked me what skill I could offer,
I bulged my chest; and

That is when I knew it was over.



On your mind, tomorrow lingers.
Luck keeps calling, sweetly, softy
with hope. Clear drive on the highway, until…

at work, the premises are up in flames,
Union hawks.

No cops for the day,

It is 14th and the mortgagee
will whisper;
the urge to back date
creeps in, relief.

Lunch break,
fresh air.

Commissioner’s text warns,
‘I’m hosting,’


Then you know it’s over.



The mist is blinding and
you swim before you dive.
At the narrow end of the
cold, humid, air stinging
your nostrils:
nature’s bargaining for
release but you are knocked out
in pain and it is time.

Black tom flashes his eyes and hind,
sparkly, yet so fluffy and frightened.
He has seen this scene re-cast
in his episodes. Too bad he
does not worry about kitty support. You think.

Black tom feels your pain, more for
your wild oats because this new one
does cost a kidney. You press on
in the cold because she has called
you names and will soon bite if
you dare announce the jeep’s out
of fuel; perhaps a damaged windshield
will do just fine.
Alas! It is water. Hers in plenty,
Junior is almost popping. And your jeep
is drier, it will not move.

She screams once, you hear voices,
not sure whether to cry or laugh out loud.
This is your chance to become native,
he is your ultimate Green Card. You will not falter
when the border bureaucrat yells at you two.

Junior pops out and screams at you,
louder than his mother,
as if to pry into your guilt and failures. You drag your feet
and your hands tremble when you hold him. That fear,
when it dries,

Then you know it’s over.
Poems: Atuhairwe Agrace Mugizi
Image: Janet Beasley via Flickr (Modified)

Atuhairwe Agrace Mugizi
Atuhairwe Agrace Mugizi
I am a lawyer by vocation and instruction and a writer by rebellion. I enjoy a quiet read away from traffic of any kind. I do not mind settling in Nairobi since I have many hideouts to piece out a feature but would keep Kampala nigh for groceries, friends and family.


  1. Really am short of words for this is not just a poem but a beautiful expression of mind….. great words from a great mind

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