Kenyan writer, Mukoma Wa Ngugi is the author of Hurling Words at Consciousness (poems, AWP 2006), Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change (KPH, 2003) and editor of a forthcoming anthology—New Kenyan Fiction (Ishmael Reed Publications, 2008). He is co-editor of Pambazuka News (www.pambazuka.org ) and a political columnist for the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine.
His political essays and columns have appeared in the LA Times, Radical History Review, Mail and Guardian, zmag.org, Chimurenga Journal, and Kenya's Business Daily Africa, Sunday Nation, and The Standard, amongst other places.
His poems have appeared in Tin House Magazine, Brick Magazine, and Chimurenga, and in the anthologies, Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa ( Flipped Eye Press, 2006) Réflexions sur le Génocide Rwandais/Ten years later: Reflections on the Rwandan Genocide ( L'Harmattan Press, 2005), Step into a World: A Global Anthology of New Black Writing (John Wiley & Sons, 2001) amongst other places. He has forthcoming work in the New York Quarterly and Wasafiri Journal.
He can be reached at email@example.com
"Change, like death is inevitable" Karimi Nduthu
Kenya—A Love Letter
Commissioned by the BBC World Service
Inside looking out, snow is falling and I am thinking
how happy we once were, when promises and dreams
came easy and how when we, lovers covered only
by a warm Eldoret night, you waved a prophecy
at a shooting star and said, "when the time comes
we shall name our first child, Kenya" and how I
laughed and said "yes our child then shall be country
and human" and we held hands, rough and toughened
by shelling castor seeds. My dear, when did our
clasped hands become heavy chains and anchors holding
us to the mines and diamond and oil fields? Our hands
calloused by love and play, these same hands—when
did they learn to grip a machete or a gun to spit hate?
And this earth that drinks our blood like a hungry child
this earth that we have scorched to cinders—when we
are done eating it, how much of it will be left for Kenya?
My dear, our child is born, is dying. Tomorrow the child
will be dead.
January 4, 2007
* * *
A Poem for Arthur Notje
Your forehead jutting outwards swelling with the wretchedness
of inheritance, watching your trail of black dust, ashes
of a cremated past swirl and twirl, a dance with voiceless ghosts
that see through the film of your eyes. Your eyes frozen deep
in the monotony of the past holding a black and white
photograph of a stillborn baby's wail.
Your nails thrust deep into the palm of your right hand until
it explodes like a grenade reading blood will flood the River
Nile, your reflection lies face down in Thames River, I see
a corpse in an Ocean sized fitting room. Consult neither
the Yoruba gods nor oracles, what you need is an internal shift
of perception, find beauty sufficient enough to thaw feeling.
Once you found beauty and said a true word, one true word spills
its truth at seams, swells beehives until the honey trickles
down to oasis. You said, lift up the cup gently to your scorched
lips and drink lest you spill. The warm sun light seductively
filters through the BaoBab branches onto my hungry skin, oval slits
of light swaying with the wind that moves the palm shaped leaves.
Is there a true word so terrible to face? That creates such
anguish? Only in its absence, the vagueness of an articulated
absence that churns ghosts, births easy theories of dualism and
memory of a childhood that dreamt what it cannot now fulfill leaving a
solitary poet staring into the abyss with nothing in front or behind,
the sole saxophonist in the middle of Oxford Square playing long
after the mourners have left. It once was beautiful. Wearing your martyr's
cap, you sat too long defenseless, the lone aeolian harp battling a screaming
wind that has upon itself the role of redeeming the world. Thames River
cannot not mummify as winter is not here. City lights flicker industrialization
onto the river's glass, your face distorted by the city's disco lights, two dark
eyes peering into the display of orgy that dances before them.
Every day the world ends with our eyes glued on the next shipment
of happiness. Nightmares of land mines, sequestered Palestinians
and Zulus who no longer believe in either the pointed tip of Shaka's
assegai nor in the poet's pen. Let it hurtle along at the pace of my mind,
Bao-Bab fiend sprout a branch, trip a thought, middle of inferno,
take a plunge into the fire next time of a mind through which the world
whistles tunes of its madness. Shoot a straight arrow into the sky, create
wavy parallels, dance opposites in its wake, I see your face actualizing
the possibility of life, the fact of death. The Police records show your
fingerprints on a beer bottle, a witness who watching the orgy of depression
asked you to dance,"I have to leave, I am almost late, but thanks", he said.
"Another time then?" she asked. "Maybe, but not here." She watched your
black coat that hid your back till it was swallowed by the dancing bodies,
one slice of darkness and the you spilled onto Wordsworth Street.
* * *
Letter to My Nephew
for Ken Saro-Wiwa
The sun is locked in evening, half shadow
half light, hills spread like hunchbacks over
plains, branches bowing to birth of night.
It's an almost endless walk until the earth
opens up to a basin of water. You gasp
even the thin hairs on your forearm breathe,
flowers wild, two graves of man and wife
lying in perfect symmetry, overrun by wild
strawberries. Gently you part the reeds,
water claims the heat from the earth, you
soak your feet, then lie down hands planted
into the moist earth. You glow. Late at night
when you leave, you will fill your pockets
with wet clay. But many years from now,
you will try to find a perfect peace in many
different landscapes, drill water out of memory
to heal wounded limbs of the earth. You
will watch as machines turn your pond
inside out, spit the two graves inside out
in search of sleek wealth. Many years
later, after much blood has been lost and your
pond drained of all life you will wonder, shortly
before you become the earth's martyr, what
is this thing that kills not just life but even death?