sits on the smaller square gravestone
throwing tiny pebbles of fine firestone
at me as she recites Quranic quatrains
after a pause that follows each throw.
looks at the azure horizon in the West
whispering of the agony in her hearts
one under her breast another in womb
after my plea for a midnight flight fails.
draws mud circles on the graveyard soil
calling each by a hundred names of God
each an invocation for my safe passage
after night falls and death comes for us.
leaves me standing on the grave of hope
moving towards a distant cliff in the dark
to end the two lives and a love despised
after she opts for shame rather than him.
Walk Without Me
no craft or wit you text me
lures me now to the screen
of the phone you gave me
when your envy was green
on days you walked for me.
the point you came to me
with no shelter or future
eating your life out of me
till your own grew mature
is a blank memory for me.
be free to walk without me
for I have burnt the bridge
linking your charities to me
with no foe fear or grudge
walk this life on without me.
the muggers of my city of birth:
they loaf oft in River Road bars
escorting the daytime to its end
following parliament proceedings
on a shrill TV in the cashier’s cage
some mimic politics and politicians
or parody both in vulgar vernacular
some with wage coins drink drafts
or play poker with pink prostitutes
some wiggle buttocks to no rhythm
others bargain near urinal corridors
some scratch faecal graffiti off walls
cross-calculating clever little swindles
or their shares in city stock exchange.
when the clocks strike four or five
most raise their streetwise selves
from the warm fart-drenched seats
and join masses on the cold streets.
they always queue at busy bus stops
pausing for a plump pocket or purse
from which they fish their free fares.
if not caught, and after traffic jams,
you alight together with them at home
then you all walk as old neighbours do
throwing hellos around as you hurry on
avoiding all potholes and police patrols
then as you go down those dim old lanes
to your flats, exclamations rent the air….
At the Stone Bench
a bench of stone curves in its semi circle
sinking down in micro-inches into a city
with each evening that comes and goes.
the texture of its concrete skin is smooth
it is the result of the weight of farts from
the weak citizens of a nation in recession.
Bench of Thoughts: leaders call it in awe
each time they drive by to a conference
or a media briefing on constitutional talks
or a meal with foreign dignitaries or porn.
All hail the Hon. Prof. Metropolis Minister
for his Stone Benches Bill and its benefits.
on the bench each evening sits an idle city
or at least some of her sons and daughters
as they plot petty crimes or pawn their lives
or bony bodies to raise the coins for bus fare
back to the suffocating slums they flee daily
only to return to like a man cursed by a god
to always run in circles all his years of youth.
not all on the bench do illegal deals or deeds
the stone to some is the seat for daydreams,
urban fantasies or fits of pseudo-philosophy.
others appoint speakers from their quorums
speakers must own a copy of a popular daily.
they parody Parliament and its petite politics
shouting laws of commonsense at each other
or counter motions in bare-knuckle fist fights.
Sly Speakers always calm all by keeping quiet-
imitating artfully the President of this republic.
The Enlightenment of Amygdalene
the portrait of the patriarch etched in pencil
still stands on the extreme end of a corridor
to the centre left of the chamber of memory
that she accesses each time she nightmares.
it has faded now somewhat and looks limp
the eyes have been blotted out with guano
that falls steadily from a clan of bats above
only its strange grin remains ever so pristine.
it has taken hollow decades and this divorce
to finally convince her heart blinded by love
that the scion of this father of a motherland
lacks the Enlightenment that makes us human
which historians say were bountiful in his dad.
now that the prison gates close with a clang
ushering her back from the ICU of memories
she feels health flow back into her own mind
and a new energy of motion tugs her mouth
making a strange grin sit under her blind eyes.
My Grandfather and Me
he talked for long hours to his own shadow
changing all themes as it altered its height
both happening relative to their own ages.
he talked for long without a sip of oxygen
chasing memories that ran away from him
afraid of boredoms he subjected them to.
he talked for me to his fathers before him
chanting family epics in archaic vernacular
borrowing their eyes to forecast my future.
he talked for me to his great-grand brood
chastising them at every sign of alienation
then he left without me, his name shadow.
The Politics of Culture
foreign soap operas exploded across the land
as final decades of the last millennium hatched.
the explosion was televised every week in bits
as a dictatorship found ever innovative evasion
to move the minds of a restless republic away
from daily doses of dissident politics in local arts.
once more Plato arose in irritation and pointed
the chapter in his hallowed bible – The Republic
to a poet who in a lone mind pilgrimage to him
sought the best way to understand how alien
arts and the values they transport sometimes
manage to shape states of a national culture.
The Passage of Time
homesick poets of the French language
spit in the Seine as a mark of good luck
they count the roundest cobble stones
as they hurry away to write more lines
across the forlorn streets east of Paris.
now as i walk along a new Nairobi river
with fists clenching to a dying fervour
tucked deep into my jacket of memory
the voice of this once dead home river
liquidly tells me not to lose hope or luck.
it is this voice of liquid memory on rocks
made so smooth by the passage of time
that makes me believe as did Tchicaya:
lady luck can always smile on the exiled
and make them ready to forge on anew.
“When bloods of a nation commingle
and height, weight, colour and heart
are united out of such union of odds,
or enemy bloodlines exchange genes
for genes down different generations,
new nations whose difference is same
appear and revitalise the ones of old.”
I speak out of the heritage of hybridity
as a being produced by two ethnicities,
standing on fertile bloodlands between
genes of Western and Eastern Bantus
flowing in two ancient ancestor arteries
on whose banks identities like mine are.
(c) JKS Makokha