[between the lines: a queer afrikan reading of mukoma wa ngugi’s poetry]
Listen. Do you hear ghosts? Connect them to the sound of a canoe
on Indian Ocean. Listen to that tape of familiar beats that has weathered
foreign seasons. Sukus found in Salsa. Fela Kuti meets Masekela
in Appalachia. Do not inhale the coal fumes. Hold a memory.
[recent like the synergy of #todavidwithlove project or the rebirth of pan-afrikan performing arts (papa) institute, en ancient like creashun o!]
Commit sins of transportation. Bite the past. Spit broken teeth
and colored blood that will chart global awareness. Learn
to say fuck without flinching. Seduce anarchy of the mind and try
to order schizophrenia in realms just outside the touch of your black
hand. Image coming at you. Color it in Old English and an accented
haiku and see what you win. If lucky enough, if you are one of those
lucky cigar smoking sons of bitches, play the lottery and you might win
the lady’s hand. Do not try to break the chains that bind her feet.
Hold her. Touch an image of her that is a mirage of you. Laugh
and say she is crazy to forget with you. Sip your beer gently. Light up,
let the sizzling seeds pass from your lips to hers. Watch the smoke
and its promise, it will turn you on onto possibilities of the night. Smile.
Ghosts. As a child voices sang in my sleep and then took to life. I dueled
them with screams that were hushed with threats of tranquility. I stole
Don Quixote’s sword and found a horse in my bouncing bed and would
have won the battle had it not been for the doctor who found Malaria
[read: HIV/AIDS, no fly zones, sodomy laws, polio, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis et cetera]
where there was none. Pills. Silent duels. And so when the police with guns
and big black coats came for my father, it must have been a dream I dreamt.
That night – pills with no water but morning tea still found a newspaper
damp with dew. Swords thrust, truths as righteousness of strength
bouncing horses and Marx -it all could have been a dream. Learn to stay up
late and talk of classes and footsteps. Not of classes but of labor at the nearest
Micky D’s. Dance to old rhythms and constitute common law while talking
of tradition. Find the nearest altar. Take pills without gun powder. Say
Mandela always with a smile. Miss her but call her a bitch. It will make
you feel like a man to stare her down feminism. Dust sprinkled so sparsely
and gently on your feet, stripped dress, gapped smile, black hair in rainbow
your laugh and the way your fingers curled inwards – they always smelled
of plums. I miss our evenings by the pond, that time the sun refused to set
and we had to roll it over and down the hill You never did come to say good bye
how is it I remember your smile at the airport? Stay away from New York.
[even Brooklyn o??!]
[play…. spot the asylum seekers @ http://www.autostraddle.com/ ]
Too many mirrors of yourself. Read Harlem only in your sleep. Learn
to say Puerto Rican radicals got what was coming to them and Mexico
is no man’s land. Watch birds on national geographic migrate.
Amuse yourself in the sound of wing against wind. Ignore the wail
of the middle passage. Find beauty in trees where no necks were broken
and burning flesh was not sacrificed and color it Rainbow. You see,
its all creation. Streams, your feet washing clean. Your curved elbows
sending rays back to the sun. Your militant Khaki skirt wet at the folds.
I sent you a letter. In it I enclosed photos of you as I will remember
you tomorrow. Sometimes I am waiting for you at our pond scribbling
little notes shaped like butterflies and birds that bear your name.
It’s Sunday. How did you leave church to come to me? I swear you make
me laugh. A hungry bird once in mid Indian Ocean flight, very much
weakened by hunger and scared of what lay below, measured
wing against thigh and eat its feet. And as all must come down, it landed
on its head and died. My dear, eat your memories very carefully.
*This poem originally appeared in Hurling Words at Consciousness (AWP, 2006)
[give thanks for today, yesterday and tomorrow, give thanks for the continued guidance and protection of our ancestors]
Mukoma Wa Ngugi is the author of Nairobi Heat (Penguin, SA 2009), an anthology of poetry titled Hurling Words at Consciousness (AWP, 2006) and is a political columnist for the BBC’s Focus on Africa Magazine. He was short listed for the Caine Prize for African writing in 2009. He has also been shortlisted for the 2010 Penguin Prize for African Writing for his novel manuscript, The First and Second Books of Transition.
A former co-editor of Pambazuka News, his columns have appeared in the Guardian, International Herald Tribune, Chimurenga, Los Angeles Times, South African Labour Bulletin, and Business Daily Africa, and he has been a guest on Democracy Now, Al
Jazeera and the BBC World Service. His essays have appeared in the World Literature Review, the Black Commentator, Progressive Magazine and Radical History Review. His short stories have been published in Wasafiri, Kenyon Review and St. Petersburg Review and poems in the New York Quarterly, Brick Magazine, Kwani?, Chimurenga and Tin House Magazine amongst other places.
Mukoma was born in 1971 in Evanston, Illinois and grew up in Kenya before returning to the United States for his undergraduate and graduate education. He is currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the son of World renowned African writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. You can find his blog here.
He can also be found at: http://www.mukomawangugi.com/
[redo(ne): in another place not here, Make una read this list o! beaurriful people! E don reach time wey we fit dey use abbreviation for our own exceptional street lingua. Kpele o! We dey plot big time to chop money… you dey excite now, abi? Yes, ooo.
special thanx to Bredrin en dadas in solidarity like @ http://papainstitute.org/, http://www.kubatanablogs.net/kubatana/, and http://blacklooks.org/, for introducing me to http://www.spectraspeaks.com/ to http://www.thefeeloffree.com/…. En on en on to all dey aiding me in creative process….kesho: seven habits of successful fairies]