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My Love Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does: Poems by Naipanoi Lepapa



I have never been afraid to suffocate myself
Back in high school, boys taught me I could only be loved during the night
At home, I was taught I could only exist if I wore myself inside out
And the difference between me and you is that I believed it all

Yes. I gave up on myself a decade ago.

I am 10 years old and my skin don’t fit into my bones
Seven years later, and I still feel like a war-zone
Like I don’t belong
Like I am manufactured by some kind of taboo

Ever searched for yourself in the silence of your own silence? I did.

At 20 I’m trying to feel holy again
I throw myself into violent arms
From my mouth I taste like a blend of blood and wine
Someone else wants to turn me into his temple
But I’m so over myself I’d rather not hear it out

I think anybody can buy me from the shops.

At 50, I’ll still believe in a collection of strangers I picked when I was nine
You would wonder why I love myself from someone else’s belief
And I could have an answer and tell you I have a hole in my brain
I could tell you of the sweet fragrance on the skin of being a victim

I have been beating this drum in my heart for so long
And I find meaning in my own destruction

The smoke in my old wounds taste fat on my nostrils but I don’t back off.

I still like shrimps and tasting myself in my own mouth
I like coffee in honey; it makes me forget that everything about me is wrong
I still believe in anything, everything is always enough
So I don’t think I’ll ever be a home to myself



In your head, you have answers I should give you
You forget I’m not part of your head
You twist me into flowers,
Pink, red, violet
Roses, lilies

You create a frame and set me in it
I’m in your arms singing lullabies to your sick heart
I leave a bitter taste in the tongue of your soul

You take yourself into a journey and pace me with you
These roles you act me in
These dreams you dream me in
They haven’t burnt away the pain of yesterday

Earlier today,
You took me under construction,
Built me in halves of I
These pieces that form your illusions
They are just piles of running roads,
Dry poisoned wells

See here, there is no place you can build me from



Thousands of leaves float in your head
A thousand years have passed
Snow has formed in the peak of your heart
There is mist in your soul
You dream of a comet
A hundred negotiations with yourself break down
Because he was there,
The creepiest boy with reddy eyes
The eyes that force you into desires

The day he turned into ashes,
That day before summer,
You closed your eyes
And found yourself in your childhood,
He was there,
All blazed into complications,
With lips that seemed to torch the universe
Out of you,
That day before summer,
He was the boy with a scary voice
That one you fell in love with.



I have seen this world. I’ve seen my heart possess the streets of mourning.
I have a witness before me rush to a form with signs of a signless love and die.
I’ve been caged by eyes of evil and sprang from a leak of pain but my mother is lucky,
My mother is lucky for he, my father‘s soul, is a mirror of passion
She heard him utter within her heart the secrets of his thoughts.
My mother stared at him and blasted in laughs of booming roses
For he’s an easy wind that floats in the edges of the mountains,
with his play-on love that mother says has no language or shape.

Father, my mother’s soul, I’m beyond myself
I’m a water-starved lily who’s in a body that long dried
My lover is the thoughts of blood stains, with a fire of harms burning in his bones
He came with a dawn and set my heart ablaze
He fired up big tides in motion and undid my heart with a single hello
He, the songs on the face of the sea, is the reason my heart aches,
My heart aches for his ache and he likes when it’s nude and awake
Yesterday he picked me into pieces
He was of anger and roared when I disagreed in a situation where he laid me inside out
Inappropriately, he pronounced her name in my name, and there I went jumping into a gunshot that knocked me straight into the floor of a broken wing.

Mother, I’m frustrated by his drift, I feel drunk but I’m sober
I’m crazily jealous of these sounds of happiness father hubs on you
And the next distractions my lover will use to dig my heart deeper
If it weren’t for this wavelength of hope that walks naked in the living room of your love
I’d swim in my grief and throw my foot in his mouth
I’d tell the world of his splinters of anger that flicker, that consume the patience you grew me in, I’m sorry I was beyond myself and chums of solitary, edged in when I saw first  him
I showed up in my ripeness on our first date

Father, the sweet crusader of my mother, I don’t want to lose my place in line again
It’s a long way down. I want to dance again. I don’t want to be the baby sitter of pain anymore, shake me in your wisdom
I’m not this branch of evil that he grew in tales of lemons
Beyond his sunrise, I’m not the earth of his feet
My mind should cease falling for sugared lips
And my heart from ailing feathery feelings
Father, you’re a torch of all brightness with that gladness of security
Breathe reason into me when sanity dumps me
Try a little harder, for this scent of pain has curved me
For my lover is blind in his concert and evil has begun to clap hands



Sometimes I am like your mother,

Sometimes I am empty
a controlled freak
a showroom

Sometimes I am youth

Sometimes I manage
I let go
I breathe
I give myself to my life.

Sometimes I am half-loved

I am walking in a jam and everything adds up to you.
I should go back to school, maybe nursery
re-learn myself, my worth
what it feels to receive love
without beating ‘self up,
without quarrelling, a feeling, a fire,
a shot, my clumsy heart.

Perhaps you should take that walk
I should stop lining up
You are not Jupiter,
not hundred sun rings
Perhaps when I’m gone
you’ll regret you lazy fool.

Poems © Naipanoi Lepapa

Naipanoi Lepapa
Naipanoi Lepapa
Naipanoi Lepapa, a journalist, writes dark poetry. Her work has been published in Lawino magazine under the pen name Liz Leppy which she recently ditched for her real name to honor her Maasai roots.


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