Author: Clifton Gachagua

songs for james ix


not to offend anyone we take the long route to the back of the hotel,
you have the invitation but not their approval. here at the back
you show me where the strings have been sinking into you. it’s
not funny is what i want to say. they keep playing long after
the night is done. you are holding on to something without eyes—
sleep, dread. something distinct i cannot use to hurt you. if it’s
all the same we would like to take the shorter route home. your part
of the city exists in something similar to sulfur oxide. you enjoy this.
this will be the wrong night to come out with no make up. if this were a
low-budget film the moment would be—do not say particulate.
they keep playing long after the night is done. i want to ask if your fingers are done.
it’s cold out, we think of scenes & steam in a busy kitchen.

songs for james viii


down to the pool
of green,
children curved
from stone,
leaves the summary
of their sexes

a dead man
lives in the pump room.

the man in the field
whips his body
with burnt wicker,
his movement coded
by the after effect
of prescription medicine.
either that or
the collective
dreaming of monarch

singular column of smoke and raisin.
the mother snake eats her children.


takes a photograph
of the man’s
sleeping body -
lungs rising,
of a wedding.

you come back
to my arms.

songs for james v



places & situations i found your drugs:

         – drugs that were supposed to be doing

               their work inside you)


under the bed, with the dust & fluff,

favorite red dolly –

think of all the references to pop,

pale king.

on the window, with the rusting necklace

under your tongue,

in the neighbor’s drainage,

wrapped in pork bags.

in your father’s brows,

at the middle of the sun.

in your changing playlists,

midway between shostakovich

and miles davis.

the arrangement of teeth

in kimathi’s mannequins,

a house you burned down,

fathermilk, in the fat man’s

sexy walk next to the red tree.

a resistance to morphine &

the black rider. thank you. 

songs for james III



numbers travel,

obsessed with motion,

a long body in the gauge,

sleeping guard, always sleeping.

dust in the sink,

a hole in the ground,

for you to get lost in,

motion number,

in the colours of orion,

where motion is motion.


the city is a technical code,

a cork in a winebottle.

four cousins watch you sleep,

a camera and bourbon.

they share a condom.


finding nothing in the eyes

of children

they become spectators.

now they are nothing 


chasing a van

through a dense court,

getting lost in the temporary room

where father has a mistress.


a manifesto for those who go home to dance alone

if it’s not the new colony of fruitfly

started and killed itself in the length of a sigh,

(do we say they ate themselves to death?

Is it conan, is it the lace in the big toe of God?)

If not them the kadhalikas,

the stilts in jeans standing at the corner

blazing and it should have been winona.


To those who dance to amari temba and chege,

aeroplanes will come to save you.

You say you hear bombers,

You say it is breaking glass.

But the council worker in green

Sweeping the portrait of herself off a curb,

She will wait there until it is

November again.

Take me to the dance

I want to see the dance.


All is well is well

Black faces in the well

Curses coming off the edges of our bodies

When we make love to objects

And death.


We were wrong to replace the god of wine

With the god of decadence.


And all those places

That are not places,

The small Bangladesh, the Kosovo.

Who knows if you are still living there,

Dancing with forgetfulness, my Nyunyu?

At least one of us is brave enough

To suffer.


And what is more awkward,

Than the long dancing legs

A luo girl left behind

In a breaking bed?



Take all the berries in the mountains,

Make your lover some caffeine,

And kiss the lace yes yes yes.


I went dancing with my friend

Because my other Nigerian friend

Was busy getting arrested

For a blowjob in a carpark.

The world is a sphere.

Who got arrested?


Was his name Galileo?


He said: “Take me to Mtwappa,

And show the dada.”


Whiskey is good, yes,

For paranoia and nightmare

And the godless.


It is not a nightmare

But it has the same kind of threded


A man singing as his older self

Backing vocals of a youger self.