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.

first.

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,

premonition,

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…

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.