xxxi

other things learn
the trick of prosperity
in the empty house –
shoes from later day lovers,
obscura from teenage years,
silverfish, water,
three species of ants,
all connected by shame.

riding westward,
over and over,
in the wake of other things.
like namanga behind the hill,
the friendly man –
a return to immigration officers,
as friends continue to leave –

Lozenges & Late Bepop

Woke up in such a state. Slept at three am. When I woke up I played The Very Best of John Coltrane — still thanking the universe for pirate bay. I’ve been listening to him for a while. Here’s how i came to know him, on an epub, and also the reason for my bad eyes:

‘Since I ran away I’ve been listening to the same music over and over—Radiohead’s Kid A, Prince’s Very Best of. Sometimes Coltrane’s My Favorite Things.’

&

‘The more you think about illusions, the more they’ll swell up and take on form. And no longer be an illusion. I try whistling to fill in the silence. The soprano sax from Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” though of course my dubious whistling doesn’t come anywhere near the complex, lightning-quick original. I just add bits so what I hear in my head approximates the sound. Better than nothing, I figure.’

&

‘Somewhere along the line Coltrane’s soprano sax runs out of steam.’

&

‘Coltrane picks up his soprano sax again. Once more the repetition breaks apart the real, rearranging the pieces.’

&

‘Coltrane’s labyrinthine solo plays on in my ears, never ending.’

This is Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore. Halfway into My Favorite Things I attempt a dance. Short thing. I’m surprised at my will to dance after a difficult night.

As the year comes to an end I notice I’m writing very short poems. This while the year began with an idea for longevity. A word that reminds me of lozenges. Once I wanted to sustain the poem, to work on it for months, to make it linger and say things. Now I just want it to end. There’s what the world wants us to do, what people ask us to do, as writers. And then there’s what is more powerful, what must always rise to the surface, what makes us animals. I’m standing there in front of the mirror, studying how much my face has changed over the years, and I’m thinking: this is flux, this will always remain. My favorite part of My Favorite Things has to be the first few seconds, after which I press next. In this duration I am also a dancer. Three years I danced for Dagoretti Boys High School. In those moments I had power and the means of movement in my bones, I had something close to what we might call the thing that sustains man. There were rules and form and I accepted these, quite easily. Now I’m forced to think about the reasons I don’t dance. A lack of form cannot be a reason, it can only be intermission. The rhyme is not deliberate, I promise. There are people asking me to do things, say things. People with great knowledge of the classics. But my problem remains with this idea of long. It’s a long journey to Tongpin, where my mother is. should this not be enough? What’s illness and what’s metaphor?

(Miles Davis and Charlie Parker are also recommended as improvisers.)

The other day, at terminal 1B I think, we said goodbye to a friend’s girlfriend and I was standing there in the cold thinking about departures as means of ending poems and ending life.

Her sandals are right outside my bathroom. I like this. She has been gone since Sunday. Her dress is on an old couch in my bedroom. I like this too. Something has to be said about the beauty of fucking a girl right before her period.

xxviii

maybe we’ll never know how this can

be — the yellow, the length. and what’s lila?

you’ll be tall all your life.

always mistaking love for (an) assassination.

and the halls — they will be there,

carpeted, busts, orange,

MK Abiola and war generals.

ways of dying — you’ll be there,

listening, dreaming, in the way only

people like us can.

and by that i mean walking down Grogon,

a black river.

we will be all we can — listening

to the unnecessary, praising

bad men. and violence.

Jackie III

Originally posted on Feminist Loft:

chopsticks

four in a row

dark hues

blues and yellow

(mellow, we sing the blues)

nina simone is god.

he in a hat

blue suit

and yellow tie

a tulip withering

only two

she gets better

everyday

chopsticks

framing

choking

he in each frame

hangs

in all kinds of blues

[two days later]

we

see differently

we hear he did

two days later

Jozi’s summer darkens

“nunayitie”

behind the shame

of an unmentionable act

my mama’s people murmur

“uswelekile mfowethu”

carried in eBhayi’s winds

into Park Station’s carts

swallowed for hours by hearts

to open into tongues

that hiss in Maruleng

“Argh shame”

black and white

seen only as black

dates no longer matter

words falter

this summer feels warmer

in Jozi

Maboneng

Bioscope

August House

Behind the Market

we imagine

from nairobi

to jozi

time stops beating hearts

we run

away

we run

from

we run

towards

we run

View original 8 more words

xxvi

a)

if I’m to rely on memory, my country, you say,

is in the north – you are not sure.

(a woman cleans the rooms at the back,

her Swahili less laboured than mine,

her answer to my imposition a nod of the head

and a return to duty, as if she’s known

many more travellers like myself.

some music from somewhere dark, something

with its own rules and guides for memory-

making)

if I’m to rely on movement, the plastic flower

in my motel room

will remain a thing of beauty. &

I will stay here, with the dead TV,

the hood of a lamp, the half curtain,

the simple joys of the coming days,

- I’ll make reliable lists from memory.

until you find me.

alone like this, with the body –

how also the map is torn in so many places

unwinding it is – or becomes – an act of grace –

something I’m incapable of.

b)

where does the body curve upwards, where down, where

does it say, or intend to say, this is hardness,

and this is the place you are not allowed to touch.

c)

if you don’t know a thing to the absolute end of its meaning,

and let’s assume there a thing as that, the absoluteness,

like the texture of stone, the smell of sun in your unwashed hair –

does this count as memory?

like fucking in the dark, the difficulty of getting in,

which I hope has no meaning, and

the difficulty of rhythm            and pace,          even tone, and the lying

down afterwards, the closing of one pair of eyes and

the wondering in the dark of the other pair, head

tilted to where the window might be.

xxv

the first flight of stairs goes into the room

with the operating table and trolley

– we’ve learnt to fuck on the unicycle, and the danger

of saying things for shock value –

the second disappears into a black nothing,

although i know there’s a window there –

the air always cold, and the hum

of a thing caught in an adam’s grape.

the island in the kitchen is always dirty

from all the meals offered to strangers

who either arrive late, or come empty handed.

old records used to be on the front wall,

now we have taarab and sounds no one will listen to.

the loop of these choruses, the madness

of stillness, incomplete fucks, books we will not read,

a broken appliance that might be turned

into a machine of love and time and friendship.

and in the private wing, an absence of light,

not the same as darkness – think of a child’s body

the first time it experiences water, how instinct

cannot save it from drowning, instead,

enabling death. think of a great sinkhole.

backyard – more appliances, old shoes that

don’t fit anymore, a dog licking milk from a condom,

flowers whose names we’ve forgotten, or

never cared to learn – like the way your body

moves in that awkward loop, until i turn you around, or

you turn me around, and we’re finally nameless.

in the bin, a lecture on memory and the place

of the African writer in contemporary et cetera

– a thing we don’t care about – your lucky beads,

the bangles from Z, bloody spit, bloody cotton,

and i think about the dog –

do you think about the dog? he comes everyday

for the milk and to lie down in the flowerbed,

to listen to the clock in the private wing.

the poet in port Harcourt (part i)

my grandmother’s head, wet with blood and incoherence, sits under my bead,

all this time, myself and some friends, waiting for maulidi, walking in black sand, saying, this is how

to love your people. me walking on any kind of bridge to get rid of her head,

the weight of it on my back, language time and fatality, a premonition, like a bag of wild mangoes, or

the taste of snails in lime water, me saying this is the bridge we must walk over,

your head heavy, your kikuyu unreadable, your love for my mother unknowable,

the ocean too far for me to fling this thing, this head, the river black and unmoving.

and all my friends will see the thing I carry – your head in a backpack –

the quiet homage to a friend who says, ‘I love you’. what does medusa dream of?

how is it that after your body there’s a field of nightmares?

pissing all over your mother’s rhododendrons. what’s jujuu, and what’s

rhumba, what’s benga? what’s highlife? and the poet of the clinical blues telling

us all these things by the poolside, not reading to us. promenade.

what is a threat of drowning?

all for you, baby, all for you.

a short exchange of words – arrivals and departures,

you saying nothing, meaning everything. back to the smells of your house,

meatballs and pasta. me going on and on about zephyrion, god of the west wind, british

architecture, hydrangeas, nigerian efficiency, all these men

who’ve never known kindness, and, here’s B, talking about the brotherhood of man.

a woman at a nigerian airport – Lagos – is a disposable thing,

and will you give me all your money, for nothing?

I’ve had enemies who killed my cats, stepped on my water lilies,

I wish them nigerian citizenship.