say we end up as driftwood, maybe as
something from the mainland, maybe the dead body
of a child on the banks, flotsam – and there’s
a child playing with shells nearby – this could be from memory
or premonition, or simply a photograph – and the child
is so old he keeps us in the cataracts and opaque
places oh his eye. he sees at first; he has intuition.
then from shame, a need to turn away, maybe a sense of duty
he has learnt after seeing his father pray all night,
things he has not been taught but knows,
things that make him put us into his blackspot,
in the same ways he has drawn blood from things and simply walked away.
all this the future and singular subject of his memoirs.
say we are with him, walking, finding our way to a place without prayer.
& say none of this refers to our nights together on your balcony.

say we are looking at a lake,
barefoot on a rooftop, Nairobi on our minds.
say am still stuck in ideas of truth, and you,
much older, more experienced,
not so incapable of teaching as much as you are of learning,
learning these new colors,
these new toys they are making for the sake of failing desire —
whether from tradition or as prediction —
a return to old religions even if we have never practiced any.
they you say: ‘that’s not a lake,
that is a dead blackbird. give me my glasses, fast.
it could be a dead child.’

say then i return to you, and we have marked our lives
with the laughter of you assurance of my return, a child
beating against the door, calling for either its mother or the
dead weight of its drifting body, that which it will not see,
say then i return to your body, not with my idealism,
and not with my failures, my tantrums, or my inability to learn as well,
but with your own scriptures, i return to you with your own marginalia,
and history, and the stories of childhood, and bad swahili;
what will you say then? say.


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