a second interruption of the songs

soon after love with you

i wanted to write a great lyric for nairobi

in which my inadequacy could be redeemed

by the lyric’s depth and length,

like guitars as extensions of the phallus.

o don’t laugh, you like my pop psychology.

i do want to write a great lyric for nairobi,

for all those cities and towns where i knew love

for what it was,

stendikisa, nakuru, kijabe, mackinon, moshi,

the mountain looming,

the big old block opening up,

somalis sending money from nyakuron

bureaus to bureaus in kimathi street,

buying love in cheap motels in mbale,

drunk with what we thought to be life,

destroying ourselves instead with cheap liquor

and fast food.

this city resists lyric,

it needs it’s madmen

in tutus and chrome.

what is the thing we call the body? what is this dumb

dog we drag around into banking halls and bus stations?

a sanctuary?

if we’ve learnt anything from nations and civilizations

is that the sanctuary is to be destroyed,

villagers must appear in the dark

demanding to rape angels.

& if we are to be turned into salt,

remember the dietary uses of it,

& how such beautiful and sad sculptures we’d make.


first I return to names
& the shape of demise —
everything remains in
the dead space of not
knowing, not reaching.
we sit watching
kids in the skateboard park
fall and hurt and laugh,
only in the way we
must laugh at our awkwardness
so that others’ laughter
will not secretly hurt us.

all the intermissions of
this body, its rise and fall
& curious laugh — if we still
built alters and shrines,
— would be yours,
in they way we claimed ownership
without responsibility.
& you’d still be sitting in the park,
wondering if we had the right
names for the coded body.


swarm of crows make an impression,

blue red white wall,

something of a butterfly’s constituency

miles and miles,

everything made along the shoreline.

waking up in a friend’s bed

who can also be a stranger

if you consider the distance

from here to Mombasa.

and the gold of elaborate bedding,

a hot room, cheap red wine & whiskey.

halfway between

recovery and leaving.

dreams of drowning in Subukia.


you will be in your big bed, the windows open,

not as a provocation but as a way for me

to consider out the big out there or jumping out.

a bible next to you, morning doing its best run,

swifts on your satellite cable. it seems to rain

every day here. a stray

idea of love in a bottle of expired cough syrup – all the

material of hanging on you hoard – and I will read

you the song: you will find me unbearable and insincere.

I wake up to the sound of TV,

naked men in my living room,

my brother giving relationship advice

on the morning drive –

the scale of everything changes like in a map,

one that is outworn and folded,

under towels and t-shirts and dried sperm.

we are not going anywhere, you and I.

time has misplaced us.

eating chicken in Bamburi, not thinking of

the night I almost fell of a floating bar.

instead thinking of deep colours

and straw furniture, dirty hotel

towels and how we spent long nights

in the bohemian homes

of rats and middleclass men

in need of ghostwriters – it was easier for us,

letting go of each other to new friends,

smiling across dinner tables

in our own tired language

and signs.

going back home to watch

each other masturbate,

saluting each other, sailors coming home,

knowing this is what time feels like

when we fit into a scale small enough

for a map a child draws to a home

he will never know.


if I had left my body somewhere high up a mountain or even in the middle of a street waiting for you, god’s catastrophes would come and go and you would still not be there. in the way everything finds the best form limbs wings gills with time and sitting low in corners waiting to pounce, taking up the colour of its cloth, and you would still not be there. waiting is forged in me then so that I no longer get surprised or disappointed. when the time comes for leaving it will be easy and quick like when we used to joke about the anatomy of frogs but you were more interested in the frogs mating and using their hind legs to smother competition to death. although the two now might be drawn out to mean the same thing – the nothingness of those days. what will be easier still will be finding a street you cross every day and you will still not be there. this is how it is, moving in this place knowing anything true remains in a room back at home. what are the forms of these bodies we present each other? long before we have touched already the wave is breaking and you are leaving. going back to the nothingness that is itself separate but not unlike the one we know well. but one can never really hide the awkward walk of those who have torsos longer than lower limbs, the same way I cannot erase how that bathroom sink was a little too high for me and seeing myself in the mirror made me think of children in a museum and the management of ruin.

preface to bulla jogoo, 1980

you get the feeling, it’s there, blood gets colder

the spirit          leaves the body.

when you walk on land like this

hills & unmarked graves.

one is not another, although it can be.

years later.

liquorice, aniseed, corridors

of glass walls,

strong, cheap perfume,

a tree of red bloom,

love crumbs on a beard.

but first.

where are they hiding that they should not be able

to see the first sun,

the first day of light,

a voyage across the sky.

and the boy is necessary, whoever he is,

on his side, buried in sand.

hiding under the weight

of dry mangoes and cans of honey,

where the room is dark for the first time.

invisible to the world,

to each other.

hide is the only possible verb.

out of sight of men,

death. them.

marking the great silence of time,

not even the way of live of everything –

which is to be slowly eaten away.

you will not deny them their right to kill.

ascenscion. the spirit returns,

unsure which unmarked grave to enter.

a shoal transforms into citadel.

wind becomes water.

the late hour of night,

early hours of a new world

they will never see again.

why hide?

use only active verbs.

a new world has existed without them,

they of the light & slim bodies.


towards the night of

continuous claim,

those first minutes of evening

pile upon each other.

unmarked minutes.

who was there to see the birds?

the tree by the river looks as it always has,

a thousand other moments like this one.

baby birds in the nest.

some strangle each other to death,

singing softly to each other,

the last man in the valley

sees the acacias and smiles,

like he has a thousand times before.

this is what he reserves for the arbitrary,

like when his children come home

to find him singing to other children.

them and the missing.

one last day in the calendar,

the moon bursts into cloud, and, further,

wild dogs.

quiet last minutes of day

short footsteps and long smiles,

say goodbye for the last time,

a refrain before a kiss to an old friend

who was just arrived in a green bus.

a boy

jumps from shop to shop,

offering berries for whoever will sell him

his body back.

he does not know it yet:

his body turns into berries.

she is on his mind less and less,

since she laughed that morning.

men pass through here, heading south

their anger strays, remain of bathwater

guns stay,

the women they love stay

their bodies stay.

and, always, heading north, the gaze.

trucks unsettle the horizon dust.

always trucks. the beating of hooves

on dust. the distant place

remains quiet.

in its place we remember the familiar

absence, as when a drummer

beats the wind. the water.

dirty clothes pile up

in a house of what no one knows to hold together.

if they do,

history takes it upon itself to ask

‘why not?’

‘why forever now?’

she looks straight into the sun,

draws her breath in,

says to the sun: ‘hello’ and ‘goodnight’,

‘see you soon’ and ‘don’t wait up’.

a long pause before a scream,

somewhere from the origin of all fear,

the unknown, the secretly expected,


the company of wild dogs.

the west wind kills the drummer,

matching slowly, dry, quiet,

a bride.

the ribbons on the hairs of trees,

rearranging things, laying blame, discarding parts,

assigning blame,

taking middle words and calling them

end words.

he combs his skin for mutations,

satisfied the world outside is

made of wind and water.

an echo from the gulf of tafura travells down to here, on the back of a hal camel, learning the songs of the land…


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.