— when was i last this alone
with anyone?
not alone in that sense.


the pause before a thought, the coming to life of it,
the pause before that pause,

a place long after erasure,
after the coffee has long gone cold,
the two bodies having separate dreams,
one half-nightmare one insisting on traditional form.

a different alone. the effort it takes to reach some distant
thing you don’t yet know you know, the effort to be alone.
know alone as everything we have. or ever hope to have.

— when was i last this alone
with anyone?

offerings of herbal tea for the hangover, card tricks that won’t work,
my books meaning nothing to you.
now your gestures, now your silence. not everything is a code, you say.
a truth so wrong of my life it makes me happy. if my smile
is code, you don’t care: band practice is all that’s on your mind.
the combination of numbers that define us come to life
in the afternoon.
food is cooked
in expired spices,
offered and taken away,
rum is left untouched,
i know full nightmares will follow a day of sobriety.
i imagine you confronted with this violent
body that at one time is familiar then turns
into storm — think of it as viewed from space.
this proximity to danger you never seem to acknowledge.
— when was i last this alone
with anyone?

if a body makes decisions,
here here here
nyambura —

if the body questions it’s existence —

if you’re here with me,
the love of my life.

if we rethink all these places as not existing.

chale. how far?
when having the big nightmares
of life, the big nightmares of your
unknown life, you didn’t care.

you turned turned turned


in you’re not being there

I love your hair in my mouth.

‘wheir was we when we was we’

we went to all the places, to mean, in the cruel way of our dreams, no place at all. we went down the safe valley, down unnamable alleys. we went where they did not expect us, where they put up lego men in guns waiting for us. we went down the the old roads, down playhouse lane, down the fractured places we’ve come to think of as intermissions, kissing the big old traitor, washing his feet. tell me about the time when we went into the dark pit, made our way into where light was possible. we went to invisible places, guided by shifting walls. our bodies sharing the roots of certain words in our languages – silence meant we were getting somewhere. oh, coming to where light was possible, our bodies outworn, outworn, night flowers performing the impossible – still the flesh doing what is familiar and necessary. we went into rooms where hydrocarbons were burning. we went to where prayers are useful, as long as the only prayers we said were the ones we could not remember. we went to all the places.

kijitonyama (for kasese)

one never imagines to find their body
as part of the night revisions of a poet’s
imagination. yet here i am, living
next to an abandoned cemetery —
the cemeteries of Uswazi have their own lives
outside city council ideals — living outside
& inside the place you’ve come to call conditional.

see, this is what i’m doing, thinking about municipalities
while you work, next to the ocean, sending letters
to far away places, not saving for a dentist’s appointment,
sending me money for a few warm beers,
regretting my journey from arusha to ubungo,
coming home with chips and cold firigisi,
your breath the kisses of old lovers.

if i mention my quick survey of the kijito nyama cemetery
there’ll be no sex,
although we are both poets. or think we are.

in the evening i’m ready for the fragile body,
the cigarette smoke and burns, the sarung, the satin,
the low quality megapixel view of a maid
watching us throw our lives away.

an interruption

dawn’s perfect utility is
the old vision i have of you —
you changing, an old ghost,
a body in awkward motion
saying your latin prayers,
but really dancing to soukuss.

come back to claim
what was left behind

altered, in a way destroyed,
changed forever
even if that change is beautiful.

ways of sleeping

i keep returning to that bridge,
the things we want, when we want them,
disappear. and you. you.
on our way to Majengo —
why is it we can not exhaust this?
this. this.
we keep returning. over and over.
you keep returning.
the drums of Shostakovich.,
i keep hearing your sad music,
your sad music.
i do not know any language,
i do not know any language,
i do not know any language,
i do not know any language.
memory here is forbidden.
& you my love, you are forgiven.

Samaki wa Pagatori

A substance of influence
at first invents language, forget Babel, my love,
Think of code, a secret whisper, what becomes, in the end,
The familiar but elusive whisper of the lover.
That not yet forgotten thing lingering,
At the waste end of memory,
not that I know anything
About such a place.
Such a place, such a place, such a place.


Think of two lovers
Whose only language is silence,
Meditation, and sex in a hostel house,
the fish of purgatory listening,
listening, listening.


Or, a new beginning:
It invents the possibility of language in Bobby the Fish,
So that twenty years into the conversation
Bobby the Fish is still trying to make out
The first letter of the first word ever said
In a world some of us believe to be the first and only one:
‘In the beginning was the mercy fuck…’


Water, though, is Bobby’s first language:
Drowning in his first sexual climax,
And his last.
So that the pout becomes both supplication
And admonition
to the god of water.


And if there are other worlds,
Where fish hunt men with harpoons,
Broken nets, Benghazi currents?
What are we to say of these men?
Or the fish,
Who adopt accents and evening dress,
Walk to famous restaurants and order tuna
In white wine?
What would their great psychologists say,
If they were not still sulking
And mending nets
To be captured in later?


Hi, Bobby. Welcome to Nairobi.
Fear nothing.