archive - issue 18

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  • 10 Characters

    By Anton Krueger
    Nurse Marie Her lapel is a little faded and her lipstick slightly smudged in the corner of her mouth. “It’s an easy job,” she
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  • A Cry for Help

    By Ross Fleming
    I come from a long line of great worriers. My earliest memory is of Father, the morning paper spread out before him, tearing his
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  • A selection from a series of polaroids and paintings "We are Definitely Heroes" that calls into question our self-obsessed nature through the lens of
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  • a perspective

    By Lucca Munnik
    she’s a contradiction:anxious yet fierce andchallenging yet sensitive. she carries emotions that she hides from people,but then bluntly spurts them out when it gets
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    • POETRY
  • A shortish life in 15 shortish paragraphs   1.       Birth From the start it was all hard work. Later her blue-eyed brothers and sisters made
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  • All the World

    By Jeannie Wallace McKeown
    Hours spent dreaming herself a role in an infinite movie reel of lives; string theory says she’s living them; somewhere she moved to a
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    • POETRY
  • Commuting in Jozi

    Coming from Polokwane, a small town in Limpopo, Johannesburg is a big city to me. It is a congested, confusing, concrete jungle compared to
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  • Constellations

    By Caitlin Stobie
    For Ryan   We were meant to be characters: two queer geeks with a Tarot set.   Setting: the day of the velveteen stage,
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    • POETRY
  • de-identified

    By Kirsten Stolle
    de-identified examines the impact of facial recognition technology on individual privacy.  Using augmented portraits of 19th century women and an imagined narrative, de-identified explores how
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  • do you

    By Anton Krueger
    do you also hold your breath in movies when a character’s drowning, to see if you can outlast them? do you also miss those
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    • POETRY
  • gogogo is in love

    By esethu esethu
    REMEMBERING HERE an excerpt from "A Long Story Short", an unpublished novella   It was not always as contaminated, the nature of the resentments
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  • Hugh Hervey Walker

    By Molly Walker
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  • I am very angry

    By James Chapangara Mugabe
     Part 1 - Introduction Please let me rant! I am angry, very angry! I am angry with you Comrades Ja! Ek is gatvol! Ini ndakadumbirwa
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    • POETRY
  • I doodled your name by force

    By Naggayi Lydia Sanyu
    I doodled your name by force. Yes please. I was not going to be that girl who'd pass through her teenage years without ever
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  • It is

    By Kyle Allan
    It is.   It is a ball surrounded by lightning and the mercy of cosmic rays being hurled through space, again and again finding
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    • POETRY
  • Joseph: Starlin

    By Joseph Claassen
    Joseph: Starlin He rolls up on me while I’m whatsapping calls softly from the side to not scare meout here in the city’s dukderma man
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  • Kinoti's Flower Bud

    By Michael Thuo
    A green writer is one in constant motion. This motion is in the state of mind: seeking ideas, inspiration and appealing to the yet
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  • La femme obscur

    By Lunette Elle Warren
    She’s a natural brunette. She has an incurable case of Resting Bitch Face. She’s a poet. She’s a dirt road that stretches into the
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    • POETRY
  • 1.   I hid in the church after they left. Some of the stained glass had been broken, and the plain sunlight bled into
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  • Meeting Kasiobi

    By Mariam Sule
    Few things have evoked my empathy like the evening I spent with a beautiful man named Kasiobi who has lost an ability that I
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  • Mostly about a Beetle

    By Anthea Garman
    Ken’s red beetle 1963 – I am three years old. I pose against the beetle in the way I have seen my mother do. Fat
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  • Mountain Heart

    By Maria Kjartans
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  • My Grandmother's Name

    By Louella Sullivan
    In her 70s the rigid clack of a label maker stamped out her neat name to be stuck spirit-level straight on cupboards, Tupperware, biscuit
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    • POETRY
  • Nairobi Is A Quick Lover

    By Waiganjo Ndirangu
    First flash: a business-bright billboard smile; A suit far too neat for the jam on Jogoo Road; A suit too well knit, too well
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    • POETRY
  • There’s an old proverbial postulate that the commercial competitive market model seeks to create the best possible goods at the lowest possible prices (now,
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  • Image Gallery Character resonating out hard into the environs: with physical manifestations in Heaven and Earth; for better or worse; meteorologically, geologically, technologically; synthesising
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  • The Garden's Memory

    By Louella Sullivan
    A garden is harder than a marriage you can’t throw sex or wine at it to pacify the wilderness that threatens.   A garden
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    • POETRY
  • The Gathering

    By Emmanuel Uweru Okoh
      Now I ask... What do you see? Eyes with shades of variedness Eyes of diverse vision A hundred feet in this room A
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    • POETRY
  • The prisoner

    By Carla Chait
    The clink-clink of chains along the corridor of area 354 is indicative of the approach of a prisoner. A prisoner is approaching and I
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  • The Running Man

    By Theodore Senene
    If you happened to be seated in the third coach of the 10 o'clock train heading west,  watching the luscious green countryside flash by,
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  • By the time they reached one hundred kilometres outside Kamieskroon, on the way to Cape Town, the rhythmic tikketu-tikketu of train meeting track had
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Waiganjo Ndirangu

Waiganjo Ndirangu

A poem 'When I Be' and a short story, 'I Will Not Get Angry' have been published in the last three years.

Friday, 14 October 2016 21:10

Nairobi Is A Quick Lover

First flash: a business-bright billboard smile;

A suit far too neat for the jam on Jogoo Road;

A suit too well knit, too well fitting, too good

For anyone real.

Then he moves - inside the billboard -

Two steps forward, one to the side

Hand glides out of pocket with a slide

Phone. Best leg forward. Pose.


(") Pause.

Nairobi stops to watch, to save to memory

This magic of a man - perfection personified.

This memory merges with others in vogue:

The hunky hero on movie magic,

A one-time White House guest turned iconic,

The muscled advert-face relic

And any other on any magazine

In Nairobi or any city else.


(>) Play

Feet fall close in a life so fast paced -

Nairobi eyes are bewitched with contact allergy

Like a bad case of cross-eyes.

They are busy eyes.

Shoulders meet hard and repel

Jostling for that wear; that look

Dying to catch Mr. Nairobi's eye -

Actually dying.


When he breathes,

women save for steam irons

For the latest tights on watched weights.

The gyms pack full, lunch spots close shop.

When Nairobi raises his eyes

Women raise their hems.


Boutique prizes shift-up.

Credit firms reach out to you, brother:

A thousand eyes eyeing a single image

With similar need, fast-bred greed -

To have a neat lawn - by a street swept daily at dawn

To park in the mezzanine - a concept car.

(Property agents drop bellies fast.)

To have the next technology now. Now!

The Messaging-optimised E-series with 4G

For sms, for facebook and for flashing with glee!

Or the 2TB HDD, 8GB RAM, 3.2 Ghz Core i7

For single-finger snail-typing,

gaming and getting you the 'Lo!'

From that impossible work mate -

Never mind the fortune

Nairobi likes you looking great!

And anyways, for the neighbour's eye,

What’s too dear to buy?

Be it a tool or a ruse!

Mustn’t you pay for but hardly use

In Nairobi?


In the catch-my-eyes dance

Ubuntu dies and is buried at Kimathi's feet,

To keep stillborn uhuru company.

But Nairobi's a walking city,

Or a one-train-a-day affair,

Matatus shuttling at capacity,

In a jam with single-occupant cars,


And for a single moment, you look like him -

Or right for him.

You are ecstatic, you are Nairobi!

Or Nairobi's newest whore





On-demand smiling




Man and woman.

Nairobi will bed you quick!

Then fire you

Then sue you for bankruptcy

Then auction your concept car

Then you hit the road -

A truly fulfilled fool!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012 16:05

Even Dirt With a Little Glitter

If a rock is hard and black
If a tree is large and soft
Must it be granite at heart?
Baobab inside?
Must you scorn it from far,
"Miserable Baobab, thou art ungainly fat"
And condescend upon immovable rock,
"Poor thee, I understand thy stubborn stock"?

None is what it seems
Thorns sprout by tenderest apples
And there are the juiciest melons on desert soil.
Who would have thought!

You'll find your tongue as strayed
As a waif any day
To look at me and judge
Or shower me in praise,
And the leaning Tower of Pisa
Would laugh still at your skewed opinion;
And for judgment, why, you will be bankrupt!

But I wish you the sight
To see steel in a bean pole
To smell perfume in the communal urinal
For contaminated are we all
Even dirt, with
A little glitter.
Though we jibe and fuss
How thoroughgoing we are
We are breeds crossed of something bad
And something worse.

To insult me, then,
Crack my oak bark
Stand my eucalyptus scent
The itch of baobab sap
And pinch of falling thorns.
Still, borrow a giraffe's neck
For my ego sits high on my uppermost twigs
And deep in my pithy stem.
Sunday, 07 November 2010 02:00

I will not get angry

While I was a boy and Shiku a girl, Elikana was neither. If he played with the girls, their dollies and balls and any good dress would all keep turning up torn. Naturally, there was always a girl wanting to claw him and draw his tears in any open space in the neighbourhood. So when he wasn't being mean, he was crying. He was the unpopular soft green maize in the neighbourhood for anyone who could prick. And for him, we would sing a song about a gawky boy and green maize. Another thing, he also wouldn't fight or climb trees without falling and he bathed too often; that is how we knew he was not a boy.

For some reason, despite our different ages, we all met on the same dainty morning to start our nursery class and then parted on a weary afternoon after eight years of primary school. Off course, Shiku and I had met earlier when she was small and newly born before, on my mother's death, an auntie took her in for nannying. Father, I must tell you this because you are a man of God. I must tell you.

My mother had passed away one afternoon. But her passing never really passed. It stayed with me for so long that I begun to feel that she was more often around me after she died than she had been when alive. She would be standing on the path from the milking shed and at the gate when the goats came home and although I spent little time in the pumpkin section of our shamba since her death, it continued to look like someone tended it daily. That is how I knew she was still around. Her earthen pots, however, lay cracking in disuse under a tree near our pit latrine. Only one was broken and that had been broken by our neighbour on the eve of my mother's burial. I shouldn't have noticed, but being only two years old and afraid of the dark, I was rushing back to the house from a long call in the bush when I heard two pots crash so violently that I was sure a giant python had struck out from their cover and was coming for me. I had screamed but a man's voice had told me to shut up quickly. It turned out that the python was our respectable neighbour and village elder, Guandaru, whom I clearly saw was not only lying next to the pots but indeed on top of my mother's sister. I have never told anyone that part until now. Anyway, while we all mourned my mother's death and Guandaru broke my mother's pots to console my auntie, I was somehow consoled by the baby whose birth had killed my mother. She had left me a sister whose company was my only consolation. Three days after my mother's burial, my auntie took her away for nannying. I do not in my life remember a time when I felt lonelier.

My sister grew fast and was brought home to start school with me. I was six and she was four. Elikana looked ten but cried like a two year old so I couldn't tell exactly how old he was. He was to me a mystery when we met and a mystery when we parted. Besides these two intersections, the secrecies of our lives orbited but refused to meet for 20 years. True to God, we were as different on that first day of school as we were when we all met again together last week; one widow, one dead and the other, well..., Father, you know the things people say about me!

So, last week, I put on my best suit- a brown Kaunda suit that my daughter put in her school bag on the night of the attack. I love a well made suit, especially a Kaunda one that a tailor with a brain in his head and skill in his hands has put together. I had three...but it isn't worth much now talking about it... I put on my best suit. I have not any shoes I can call my best. I have two pairs, though, but I don't remember their colours. I guess they would have to be mine first, then be my best shoes which is impossible now that they were given me by the men and women.

These men and women have their own families and jobs and affairs and clothes to wash but still come in to serve us uji. To consider what I have seen with these my eyes, is it not amazing how different we are. You would have to see them to understand. People who have never seen me sent shoes and things for me to wear ... they say I cannot go hungry if they can help it, that my son will have a ball to play with too. Many things they say and do, these men. You would have to see them to believe them. Even then, you would not feel like me. To be thrown out, spat out like sour bile by people I called friends for so long. And then this... you would not understand. These others are great men and women.

So, last week being special, was a day for the best- the best or nothing. What father would want his daughter to think that there can ever be an excuse for bad dressing? She has almost learnt how to wash her own clothes. There is obvious indication that she is going to be a good cook too. But there has not been anything to cook yet and she has to contend with mud behind our row of tents. Had Kibe- the boy who's always walking around in shorts and a catapult slung on one shoulder, you must have seen him. No? Oh, I guess there must be many like him then. Anyway, he is my own son. Now, if he were sensible, his sister could practise on his chicken- cook one, at the least. He has six or seven now, the industrious fellow. How he managed to grab a hen out of the fire that night, no one has told me that yet. But he did and the chicken seems thankful enough to bless him with healthy chicks, the only healthy thing in this place.

But he is being mean, my son is. You would see that in the way he looks at me and how long he takes to answer me. Sometimes he just won't answer. But that would be fine; I hear children are bound to change. So that should be fine except it is not. I have seen the same look in the short man who cames from near the river they call Ithaga. That man was not even at the burial and that kind of influence on my son, I detest. If it were not for how industrious my son is, I would easily find a good stick and remind him that I am his father. But my hand does not find the strength anymore. It was long used to tending Nguno. For a cow, Nguno was an outstanding creature. She never scared any of my children nor hid milk from me. But God help me, that another man is milking my Nguno! And I did not sell her. And I did not give her out. But he is now fingering her long tits and licking his greedy lips when he tastes her milk- my Nguno! I will not get angry.

That is what I told my son when he spotted his favourite bull, Zebu, in another man's herd on Thursday last. He did not talk for three days. That Thursday of sorghum porridge, the head-count Friday and the white-porridge-only Saturday; three days. That is how I know my son can love. He loves that Zebu until he can't lose it. So, I told him he will have it back. I do not know how that will happen but I know that love for what is yours can never be wrong. You agree, Father? But I told him not to get angry. If you were a father you would tell your son thus. So, I told him thus with my lips but I am a man too and in my heart I was screaming with anger. You would be angry, Father. Just lying about in the camp seeing poverty and pain and tending nothing but your own anger and seeing no hope... your ears would get so hot you would put the camp on fire.... Fire, I say. I have seen men lose it here, yes! I have been bad and I have seen all of it with these my eyes... wait, wait. There! The little thing thinks I'd let it prowl unchecked in my suit. Wrong. Dead wrong. No lice will have that freedom. Not from me. You see how fat he's gotten on my blood? This here is a demon. Only demons stay awake both night and day. That's what they give you when they take everything else from you. Demons in exchange for my donkeys and my sheep and my house... Lord in heaven! But I will not get angry.

Oh, I was just telling you of last week's burial. The burial was easy enough. It was almost light. My friend had made many friends like himself - with big cars and a good appetite for the things I have only dreamt about. I walked the eight kilometres to his home - to the ridge just after that one there. Will you look before my finger goes numb! Right. The burial was there. I would have brought my daughter to my friend's burial but there is no way she could have kept up. I walk fast, as you have already seen. In fact, were you in the robes you wear in church, you would not keep up. I walk fast, I say. I was never late getting to school unlike my friend Elikana. We used to say that he used to hide in the bushes just to get late and get caned for it. He loved to cry... did I tell you that? Oh, already. Okay. I guess what I did not tell you is that he also smelled like milk gone bad. Yeah. Can you imagine? The thought of milk brings hunger to my stomach and Nguno to my head.

Anyway, my daughter is little and she would have missed camp lunch. It was going to be dried ugali and beans. And who doesn't just love beans! I let her stay behind so she could get some. Maybe even uji if a good man or woman came to serve it in the camp. I want my daughter to grow and not be scrawny like the others at the camp. So I walked alone.

It must have been very hot because I arrived with the sun overhead and I might have been sweating aplenty and people moved aside for me to pass. I was alright but for a little sweat. I wanted to sit near the casket in the tented middle of the big yard. It was white like the petals of the thorn flower, Elikana's coffin was. I noticed other friends with suits for whom the crowd moved aside. I went to the front where these friends of Elikana's sat and looked about for a seat. In my Kaunda suit, I must have looked trim and I was hoping to sit among friends of my friend. But there was no seat and some mad man started to push me off the shaded dais. I am not a violent man or he would also be dead.

And then my sister was there. I found her where they were serving food - real food, Father, I swear! Long grain rice - the type that stick out grain by grain; not the trembling mishmash we eat at the camp. Not that I am being ungrateful, no. Good food was there. Meat stew was just meat, a little gravy and more meat. I have had a foul stomach for it this last week but I have borne it without complaint. I must have been working on my fifth helping - there is no shame in having a good appetite - when I saw Shiku. To tell you truth, there is no way I could have seen her, being so busy and all, so she saw me. My sister has been widowed for quite some time now. She is an angel; always gentle. That is why I could not hit the mad man who was pushing me away from the makeshift kitchen in my sister's presence. So I walked to a shady tree some way from the dais. She walked behind me and soothed me with her words. She is gentle, very gentle my sister, but petty. She asked why I put on no shoes. And why my suit was dirty, she asked. And I did not see why a suit should concern me so when my Nguno was being milked by another man. In any case, why did she have to pick on my best suit and speak ill of it?

'Your ... this ... is so dirty!' she said. She said it as if I wore a most unusual piece of cloth. 'You must wash it when you get to the camp.' I did not say anything. I had never washed my suits. Only one person could do that and do it well but now... no need to remember. 'And the shoes I sent you? Why won't you put them on?' Women! Women are shameless. To expect a young man with both his hands good to put on borrowed things, I could not! I told her that I came to bury my friend and she said, 'Please let me come for the children and take them to stay with me...' but she could not look at me. She looked away for a long time and said, 'Then, take a bath. Please.'

I laughed. I laughed hard. How could she know I had not taken a bath! She told me not to laugh so loud, that the priest was doing something or other and I really like my sister so I stopped laughing. Not that I have no respect for you priests; I do. Especially you, Father. But I started laughing immediately after and she was laughing too, like she used to when Elikana fell off a tree he was trying to climb, which was all the time. It was just like the old days when we were little and Elikana was only older but not smarter and we would laugh at him. I had not taken a bath! What was she, a magician? We laughed and I felt happy for it. I remembered all the good things we had done when we were young and how she had always stood behind me in all our fights with other kids. I told her I would tell her a secret.

It is Elikana who always had secrets those early days. He knew in which corner of the neighbour's compound we had buried the mangoes we had stolen and said to split them in half with him or he would tell on us. Then he knew where my mother had squatted in the bush on her way her way home - the boy seemed to live in the bushes half the time. I told him I would smash his head if I heard a word of it but he swore he would scream and tell everyone that my mother never quite had any use for underclothes. That stopped me. It was also the time I realised I could hate. In the end, when my sister had been born and my mother had died, he said he caught my sister swimming in the river, something any girl who attended Dagika Primary School would not dare do. This time, I jumped on him. I remember well for it was on a Thursday, the evening of our last KCPE paper and the whole class of twenty three was walking home, free at last. I hit him too hard, I think, because instead of howling, he called me a small buttock. No amount of beating would get him to retract the insult so when I was spent; I left him and told myself that my sister was avenged. I was wrong. By Monday evening the week that followed, the whole school knew that my sister had one small buttock. Of course it was a lie but... what a lie! To compound it, Elikana spread rumours that he had noticed the same in my mother. My sister could not stand the embarrassment and fled to live with my auntie in Maragwa while I stayed behind in Turbo.

Last year, Elikana, that hyena came back richer than the word and won the parliamentary seat. I was now all grown up, married and a father. My sister whom I had never seen again was married too although already widowed. You see: time can heal many things but not an insult about your mother or your sister. As it was, I had looked for Elikana for a long time before I gave up. It seems he must have taken permanent residence in the bushes. Still, I was going to forget all about the old grudge. Then on the day after the elections, they started looting and then burning houses. They started with our compounds - we who had not voted for Elikana. I doubt if it was meant to happen like that but my wife was in the bathroom and I couldn't get to her before the fire gutted it. I know they say forgiveness but not for Elikana.

My sister asked me what the secret was but I told her that... I don't remember what I told her because a couple of policemen were trying to push us out of the compound... Wait! The little demon again. There! This one is a slippery one. I have caught it twice now and it keeps finding its way back. Do you know that each louse is different from the other? You have to scrutinize their underbelly. This one is darkish towards the anus, that's how I know I have seen it before... twice. And I know a bad louse when I catch one. This one is bad; really bad like Elikana. Anyways, at his burial, this policeman was pushing me past the cars, the crowd and bottle-brush trees, and the people were stepping aside like they do when the rich and big people pass and I felt like laughing... again. 'Please, shut up,' my sister was begging and one policeman was pushing her from between her shoulder blades and it seemed to hurt her so I pushed his hands off my sister and I don't think he liked it.

Well, in the end, we were out of the gates and my sister was crying. She was wiping blood from my head where the policeman had landed his baton and she was saying to let her see Elikana's body. She kept saying it so I told her that there was no point. I am not a violent man or that policeman would also be dead. I just refused to get angry.

I told my sister that I had seen Elikana's body and I told her it had four knife wounds. And she asked, 'What are you saying? Are you sure?' And she looked at me like those who say I am mad look at me and I did not want my own sister to look at me like that. So I told her where the knife wounds were, each as well as I remembered it, just like I remembered Nguno's tits. Elikana's screams had been even louder, you know. Someone would think people outgrow some childish things but Elikana never had. Even when I sneaked up to him in his home the other week, he saw me with the knife and cried like a child. No one had seen me go in. Even the dogs did not bark. They must have thought I was one of them. In fact, maybe it is not such a bad thing to avoid soap, eh, father? Anyway, I remember him screaming every time I sunk the knife into him. I told my sister not to cry so much; that it was for my dead wife, my Monica, that I cut Elikana up. Now she was not crying, she looked like she was in pain. I told her that the fourth wound was not small, that it took many cuts to make the buttock smaller. I told my sister that it was for her and our mother too. And I remembered the Thursday evening after primary school and I laughed, then remembered my wife in the bathroom and cried. Shiku was crying all the time and calling my name over and over like she used to do when she was young.

Father, they say forgiveness, father, but not for Elikana.
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 02:00

When I Be

Minutes thin towards the 0.00 hour
And sleep overwhelms,
flames are blown off wicks, the town snuggles for slumber.
A giant cloak of night descends to earth
Saints and robbers roost together.
Someone catches a fatal fever, another receives
seed of a future king and plots are hatched
to kill the present.

It turns eleven and I be.
I spread my papers and sharpen the pencil
Strong Africafe is company,
the swirl of mosquito's music
working music.

A town hall sentinel discloses when
the mayor shall die-
And I blot where I will be.
I count to the seventh bat and compose a poem.
A bed creaks and moans in usefulness. And I
Bet my pencil it will be an abortion.

The vibration, the conspiracy, the general abandon
Reach my nerves. The smell of fried dinner fades,
breeze approaches.
Bats flatter, a stray dog trots past.

An unfortunate victim yells in the street below:
with only a little force
money has journeyed from a pocket to the next.
The dispatcher, as an afterthought, stabs his reluctant victim-
Hauls the soul into the next life.
I conclude my poem, as a whim, with a rhyming couplet.

Like the practiced divorcee, I cross out a stanza badly written,
Glad that I can brew a mess and fix it
Just like God can write a life and recall it.