because you know emptiness (or– writers die miserably, anyway)

May 25, 2016



because you write, remember

there can only be one nkosi,

themba, marechera, kafka…

we don’t need you dead. like that.



what a monstrous verminous bug you’ve become, Samsa!


bottles of cheap liquor, ashtrays of stompies later,

you rhyme broekie with quickie

from braam to bree

toka chodari hadi chasimba

missing step, taking two in the place of one

(we shall sing, sometime in the future: huku nairobi kambi ya utumwa!)


you are still here

dead or dying.



your body has known abuse, friend

she remembers sex only as incest

the circle getting smaller, a dot, a stain.

(remember boys from reke marie used to fuck us for fame?)

you loiter on loita seeking the girl who was with a writer friend, the boy  you was with, last night

and in the kasi, they wave at you waiting for the day they steal

your coffin from lang’ata’s numbered patch



you, have sex in parking lots, boys hostels and in the office backyard, we hang onto bodaboda riders, dreaming of the redness of thighs of the girl in mtwapa, and calabar, and the baldness of men who wanted us to do things with them,



your body is a poem, left unfinished, no end



his liver like stolen lovers

sits on his face, exploding

ashy feet begging for the magic of water



age takes no particular interest in you,

your eulogy should be brief, incomprehensible and miserable

her funeral hurried, with no tears



and writers have mastered, like this craft,

the art of watching you,

mourning you before you are gone

the next project: a special issue, or an anthology, or a collection

a collector’s item

in the future, you shall be our past

your pastness entangled with futures we can no longer imagine



on the morning we find you lying, hands between your legs, dead and shivering, a millipede whose head boys prick with a stick in ol kalou, a hedgehog crosses the road in ahero, the drool foaming on your mouth’s left, the whiteness of your nails, your notebook drenched in vodka and pee, we shall record the smells from your toilet bowl, your insides emptied into porcelain



on the morning we find you lying on the floor of a flat you’ve not paid for,

we shall record in the heaviness of our tongues, poems we shall write

on death and dying




a writer’s death is sacred material for a sonnet.






the man in the green hoodie

May 18, 2016

there were two things, both to shoot you, or, me, or him, or them, or her. two things to shoot; a camera, a gun.


and you, what do you have?

your skin

your body

your heart

your green hoodie– this one you particularly no longer own.


a man runs, runs, runs and runs after you

a different kind of green, of our times past and present.


your head lies on the yellow kerb

a boot stomps my head, keeps stomping, keeps stomping, forever

his foot on your head

he will beat you



beat you (almost) lifeless


but whose mother’s wailing do i hear today? this script can’t be based on imagination.


i do not know, i never have.








today, was a bad day to wear green.







perhaps if we could record faces

May 13, 2016

i could tell of beautiful things, today:


i could tell of love, and beauty, and sunshine, and wonder. how clouds, on a clear  night, will kiss the moon, they used to show off their prowess in shifting shape. they will form ‘fros on the heads of women he has been with; that’s all he has. and even then he owns nothing– but emptiness.


i told of  beautiful things, tomorrow:


sometimes the sun will shine lovingly on trees. (oh the pride of cypress standing on a loameness made by another!). there’s  a greenness  left behind by collapsing buildings that crash dreams, in nairobi, lately –or– always, (does anyone remember when they couldn’t sleep but dreamt, anyway?). she has learnt to dream with her feet: once,  in an epileptic fit, he curled his toes so hard, it reminds her of the noise made by a hammer in a mortuary because one must have straight toes. we have always minded the viewers.




in the suffering between shauri moyo and loresho, the man last night could not remember how he lost his speech, she can only put her fingers into her ears, repeatedly. rhythmically, in, out, in and out, in. out. in, out. in and out subarus leaving behind the smell of suburban shauri yakos.


i will tell of beautiful things, yesterday. yesterday, perhaps if we could record faces, this one would interest the producer of misery.


but there is no beauty here. but water, water, still but flowing water.











water. the memory of texture.



i could tell of beautiful things today:


lines from michael palmer:


Yet it has begun to rain

after all. is that what you said?

Begun to rain after all?










up the jambul tree

May 5, 2016

a day after my uncle is trampled upon by mad buffaloes,

the bulls have their brains spilling over.


a cousin watches the other climb up the jumbal tree.

(bulls in the yard go crazy this time of the year),

erect penises reddening before my aunt’s jumbal fruit has shed its crimsonness,

preparing my cousins and i for the seasonal beating from an aunt with whom my grandmother’s children no longer speak.


bulls lick her bare bottom threatening– her thoughts won’t let go of memories, memories stuck in the inner walls of a vagina that has never known its name. these days she looks at her cousins with their daughters; ” your father has been in this body” sits at the tip of her tongue carrying the after-sourness of an unripened kiwi bite.


how does one go up a jumbal tree from the insides of a bull, if buffaloes refuse to take their tembes?




May 4, 2016

a cricket’s monotony tires the ear; tonight your eyes have seen enough policemen to last you a lifetime, kigali’s safety sits in your stomach threatening to erupt into a heap of vomit from last night’s overindulgence.

kigali is safe.
kigali is safe.
kigali is very safe.
kigali is dangerously safe.

you can’t say that, be silent– everyone is.

peace, peace, peace. just remember.remember to remember.

stay silent.


america’s children

March 30, 2016






your mouth can no longer hold the number of military trucks

your eyes have seen today.



fifty-two percent after the budget has been read,

america refuses to think of the sequence in the tears of mothers

(whose children he has sacrificed at the altar of war);

still, he calls this love.







via doha

March 18, 2016

these days you never know


it’s because you are black


because your government still calls you a girl.



your tongue will want to speak arabic; the words in your mouth are not enough.



you are going to have to teach yourself to swallow

the lump in your throat.

with time.


March 15, 2016

there used to be a woman.

there used to be a woman in me.

there used to be a woman in me who i have killed.


when you can no longer be.

when you can no longer be a translation.

when you can no longer be a translation of another. kill them.


sometimes we do not need archives. sometimes we need graveyards.


after slavoj žižek

March 14, 2016






to fall,

in love, is a tragedy.



to love

deeply, is to be vulnerable.


(& why would you do that?)



the day he met the president’s non-issue, he knew it.

he would lose himself in another, a cyclone to the daily.




he could no longer think in the aloneness of life




love ruins, everything.

deep passionate loving, a disaster,

in the way of fully being. she falls in love,

& in the tangshans, tōhokus, aleppos and katrinas of love’s quakes,

her heart is a blizzard in the fukushima, hiroshima and nagasaki

of the hurts of yesteryears.









(tomorrow, we debate with lee ann womack:

“loving is a mistake but it’s worth making”)







is a permanent state of emergency, run.