Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Tororot Save Mombasa!

Yesterday, the 26th June, was the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The day is an important one especially to Kenya. At the Coast of Kenya, drug abuse is a big issue. And from what has been reported in the media, illicit trafficking is also a big issue. It is so unfortunate that so many young persons have had their dreams go up, quite literally, in smoke. Mothers and wives are the hardest hit. Drunken husbands and wasted sons are every mother’s nightmare.



his glazed, drunken eyes
barely open to the world shut before him;
his bony palms, arms jutting from the shoulders
like a marionette controlled by an amateur
the slow, sluggish mutterings of a disjointed being
held together by the buckle of an oversize belt and jeans
a torn t-shirt, worn out by cold weather and misery
teeth, like the face of a toothless character, stained
foul breathe stinking to the high heavens

you will find him in dark alleys
chanting incantations to the wall,
or as his body would direct
talking to stray malindi cats
at one time he was found sitting inside
a scrap car, humming an engine sound
shouting to the cops and cursing the other drivers
he also walks around with his abbot physics book
talking about ohms law and electrolysis
evidence of a fertile mind wasted

i just look at him, follow him around,
those eyes once had that spark
fixed on a shining star
his palms and arms once had vigour,
flowing with warmth and life
he once talked in rapid sentences
linking ideas into a philosophy
that was stringed in his want of change
he once was conscious of his being
or of what he wore or of his mouth
he once walked on the clean pavements
like the rest

but now, i look at him
he is living dead, shackled by cocaine,
his arm, injected  so many times, is dark
when he has his senses, he tells me,
“aisee, mihadarati si nzuri nakwambia,
niulize mimi, hata usijaribu, mimi miaka 9 nimeshindwa”
“friend, drugs are not good, just ask me,
never try them, i have tried leaving it for the last 9 years”

then he walks away, enters his “car”
and drives away
and something like a hot coal burns in my oesophagus
i feel like to scream, and under my breath,
i mutter: “Tororot save mombasa!”

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

the stars shine down upon you

we have come a long way
of that we are sure of;
a long, arduous journey
in search of life’s meaning
other’s found it in the faces of people;
others, as painters, expressed it
on canvas

but you, you Ziza,
found it in statutes
within these you labored
to understand justice and
rule of law and
court process

we celebrate you today
look, the stars shine down upon you
to speak of your will
unrelenting, indefatigable

so, Ziza,
march on, forge on
like the cyclops, the titans
arm yourself with virtues,
be unique like you are
the journey has started
the world is smiling back,

Yours truly, at the event


Dedicated to a friend, Aziza Rajab, as a gift on her admission to the Bar. I felt like to edit it and embellish it a bit but I finally chose to reproduce it the same way I hurriedly wrote it beside the road. This poem was recited during the celebration on 23rd June 2012. I wish you well in your career. May it bring you fulfillment, calling upon you to serve humankind.

Whose Camel Sandals Are these?


The feet of a pilgrim, steady as it might seem,
Can weave on sands, lost and directionless,
Made dusty by the desert storms

They too, like the broken compass,
Remind us all of what used to be;

In a desert, I saw an abandoned pair of camel sandals
While feeling it in my palms, I wept
Another pilgrim, lost and buried in the sand-dunes,
Must have met his death
The sandals spoke of his life
They were old and torn,
Evidence of how used they were,
On top of it, there were some beadworks
Strange it seemed, the desert offered such magnificence

May be he circled round and round,
Looking for an oasis
May be, just maybe-for the thought chokes me-
A violent storm buried him,
Or maybe he kept still somewhere at this spot,
Resigned to his fate, his life cast to the desert
Or maybe he just walked on and on
Conscious of the dissipating energy
Yet happy to be a traveler, nonetheless

I really wouldn’t tell
But these camel sandals
Is a labyrinth to his soul.

# In response to Poets United's Thursday Think Tank #102 Labyrinth.

Monday, 18 June 2012

My Peace I Give To You

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

                            -John 14:27

 The poet is always indebted to the universe, paying interest and fines on sorrow

     -Vladimir Mayakovsky, Conversation with an Inspector of Taxes about Poetry

"Words are not our age-mates. Words can heal, but the same words can cripple a spirit. Words can motivate, but the same words can dampen the best of intentions. Words can be the harbingers of hope, but the same words can be of sorrow and much pain. Words kill. Words maim. Words can obliterate a nation. Words are not our age-mates. Always remember that."
~Yours Truly 

Today, I won’t write any poem. I will just speak to you. In Kenya, we mourn the loss of a Minister, an Assistant Minister, two pilots and two body guards. They died about a week ago through a fatal plane crash. My condolences to their families.

At the beginning of this year, I made a pledge that this blog will preach peace and brotherhood (sisterhood, you might also say) as Kenya gears up for her elections in March next year.

There was much violence and bloodletting in 2007/2008.

Ethnic tensions and animosity were stirred in people’s hearts. Brother descended upon brother, neighbor against neighbor. People were burnt. Arrows were aimed at fellow humans which left them dead or with brutal scars. Today, there are still people living in camps, with no place to go. Many are not healed. They carry scars in their hearts and the nightmare of 07/08 still disturbs them when they are awake and when they are asleep. Mothers buried their sons and nursed their raped daughters. They are forced to remain strong because even when they were raped and infected with HIV and AIDS, they have to hang on, else they will die. Their children, also living with them in camps, have grown to accept less in a society that has shunned them and relegated them to the periphery. They are the lesser mortals.

Blames have been leveled to many people — the government, the media, politicians, Kenyans themselves, e.t.c — but I haven’t heard it being laid on poets. The poets were guilty too. I use poets in a general sense to include bloggers or the citizen journalists.

They are to blame for remaining silent as the air smelt of human blood.

They are to blame for joining in the tirade, helping fan the ethnic diatribe.

They are to blame for using their words, not to inspire unity, but to sow discord.

They are to blame for absconding their roles as the fiduciaries of the society, them being blessed with wit and power of conviction.

I have written it here before that we are supposed to be the agents of peace. Words are not our age-mates. Words can heal, but the same words can cripple a spirit. Words can motivate, but the same words can dampen the best of intentions. Words can be the harbingers of hope, but the same words can be of sorrow and much pain. Words kill. Words maim. Words can obliterate a nation. Words are not our age-mates. Always remember that.

At this time, as we still mourn, let us remind ourselves that we are not immortal but frail and transient. We are leaves on branches which when blown by the wind of death, just fall off. The mouths which we use to spew bilge and filth will just rot. The mystery of death calls us to reflect on the duty we have of being agents of peace in Kenya and the world.

When I decided to open this blog, I realized the power it had right from the start. In the past, we had drums and smoke signals. Message transmission wasn’t that fast. Right now, this post is being read all over the world. Who ever knew that I would strike wonderful friendship from a wonderful soul in Canada? Who ever thought that I would have a friend in Nigeria or the United States?

Therefore, my daily challenge has been to exercise maximum restraint in what I write. It is never easy. In Kenya, I am afraid to say this, the temptation to appear “macho” is so real. Preaching peace is viewed as being “spineless” or being a “coward”. To fire salvos is viewed as being “brave” and “man enough”. To rally one-self into ethnic cocoons is viewed as not being a “betrayer” and being “our son”. Admonishing and throwing expletives at persons holding contrary opinions is viewed as being a “champion” and a “true fighter”. The ability to annoy so many in so short a span of time is a strength, not weakness. We get everything wrong but we, in a remarkable march to our assured failure, tread on. We are like the proverbial Abunuwasi in the Kiswahili fable who sits on the very branch that he cuts with a panga.

But I wouldn’t mind it much if our failures were personal. No, I wouldn’t mind it at all, anyway. But I mind it when we use the most potent tools at our disposal— the words— to tranquilize a whole society into non-action or to stir up their bloods to pointless confrontations and conflagration of emotions. This is unacceptable.

While eulogies were being given by our politicians, I was happy to note that most of them were calm and composed. They spoke softly and with measured restraint. Why can’t they speak like this for a month, just a month? After that, we will not worry much because after a month it will be their newly acquired habits.

As for us, the poets and versifiers, our duty is to make an impassioned plea for peace. We cry when another swats a butterfly on a wall. We stare at paints for hours, admiring their beauty and talent. We mourn when a minstrel loses a voice. Others look at cobwebs as dirt but we view them as inspiration for another poem. All our lives are spent examining this world with child-like curiosity, noting its peccadilloes, infractions, beauty, covered secrets, its silhouette of darkness. We don’t just look at a face. We want to see whether it is creased or buoyant, whether the eyes are burning with hope or sunken in hopelessness. We watch lapping waves keenly as scientists do on a specimen. We can pick a word, let it rest on our breasts, keep it away, draw it near again before finally placing it in the beak of a dove and let it fly to distant lands. We love the sea, we love the desert. We love the mountains, we love the plains. We are ticked by every minute detail in this world. If these be true, then, fellow pilgrim, then any disturbance to all these hurts us most. We are the greatest losers. Why then can’t we, even if it is for self-preservation’s sake, help nurture peace? 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father’s Day: Minstrel on this Earth

This poem honours my two dads, both deceased, one who sired me and the other who raised me. Both went to meet with the Lord. Wherever you are, I know you are watching over me.

W.H Auden's poem "Stop All the Clocks" befits the sorrow I felt. But I remain hopeful.

You could watch it here:


I have been avoiding mentioning this
For the past five years
So, I have always sung
But deep inside me I have been crying

My father,
I remember him telling me,
“My son, I have no wealth but faith,
We are all travellers on this earth”
He rode me in his bicycle and showed me
His tomato farm
And that day I messed up with his camera
Exposing the film, destroying all photos
He never descended on me in anger
May be he was very angry
Or it never showed

He now lies buried
A traveller he was, he said

Enigmatic, my dad was
Hardworking, my dad was
Religious, my dad was

August 2004
As I buried him, a part of me died too
“Stop all the clocks”, my heart cried
But my dad was no more
What happens when the one
Who you grew with tender and affection
What happens when the very ground you stood on
Is pulled beneath your feet?
How do you react to the demise of one
Who bought you Oxford English Dictionary and Kamusi
And Read With Us and Hallo Children?

Usimlaumu dobi, kaniki rangile”, he always said,
Don’t blame the launder, a stained cloth remains so.
Achanikaye kwenye mpini hafi njaa”, he also told us,
Those who labour on their hoe’s handles don’t sleep hungry.
I remember the newspapers you always bought
And the academic cheer you always brought
You loved knowledge
I remember your challenge
“Which is a City within a City?”
We were clueless, you said “Vatican”

So, when I buried you
I held back tears, but for how long?
Thus, as mourners sang, I remembered
The good things you did, the wonderful times we shared
The thought that you were no more
Was so painful, so devastating
So I let my tears flow
Till now, a part of me lies buried with you

Salem, you named me,
When I read Hebrews 7: 1-,
PEACE is what my name means,
Lorot, you also named me,
Because I was born on the way,
No fancy hospital delivery

So, symbolically,
I am a minstrel on this earth
Singing peace to troubled souls
It is a sojourn, that much my birth shows,

Perhaps it was the loss of two people in my life
That drew me close to the love for all
I lost them, but found them in you all.

Bi Kidude

 While there’s life, there’s hope

     -Cicero, Letters to Atticus

When I first heard of Bi Kidude and later wrote an article about her, I had no idea that she was going to influence me in a profound way. Lately, I have been watching her songs particularly “Kijiti”, “Muhogo wa Jang’ombe”, “Alamidura” and even “Ahmada” which she sang with Off Side Trick (O,that name, mmmh). At more than 95 years of age, she still sings powerfully.Kijiti is one of the saddest songs I have ever watched and watching keenly Bi Kidude’s face as she sang it, I have never felt so moved by a song as she does.

Read an article I wrote about her: Bi Kidude, As Old as my Tongue.

You might also want to watch Bi Kidude's Taarab song, Kijiti, and let me hear what you have to say about it:

I also remember listening to "Muhogo wa Jang'ombe" when I was still a child and never knew that this wonderful woman was the one who had sang it. Graceful is the song. And don't you love the strength in this woman's voice?



Bi Kidude,
Niambie bibie, naomba kujua,
Msukumo watoa wapi?
Ni kipi kinakupa nguvu?

Bi Kidude
Tell me grandma, so that I may know,
What drives you?
What motivates you?

Nikikutizama, wanataarab na vyombo
Nawe umesimama kidude
Kisha uimbe kuhusu kijiti
When I look at you, fellow Taarab singers
You standing straight
Ready to belt out “Kijiti”

Bi Kidude,
Niambie bibie, naomba kujua,
Msukumo watoa wapi?
Ni kipi kinakupa nguvu?

O, Bi Kidude
Tell me grandma, so that I may know,
What drives you?
What motivates you?

My Fat Woman, Will you Marry Me?

This poem was inspired by a comedian named “Gordon” at a recent comedy event dubbed “A Night of a Thousand Laughs”. He left me in stitches as he praised fat women. He said that he does not like them slim. He wants them “obvious”, the ones who are “matter” who can occupy space and that even in the Bible it says that people should “occupy” till the Lord comes. He said that he hates “cat-walk” and that cats are not the only animals. We also have hippopotamuses and elephants, he said. The only problem he had was that it was written that narrow was the way and that it would be difficult for them to enter the kingdom of God.

At the outset, let me apologize to my “slim” ladies. This poem might offend you. I advice that you skip reading it altogether. But if you do, then I will not accept responsibility. But you can decide to have fun, anyway. Tongue-in-cheek.


Come now, sweet one, I marry you,
For you have the qualities of a woman I want
I would go against the grain
Of TVs and fashion shows
Showing underfed women walking
Bones protruding from their shoulders
Miserable legs balancing on dais

This world went mad, Sweet one,
When it glorified women who did not eat
Cassava and yams and were plump and voluptuous
That is not my woman, no,
Pluck the cables, disconnect the TV
That is not the woman I want

I want a woman who fills half of my house
If I rest my head on her, I need no pillow
Times are hard, brother, and a little solace we must find
Pray, how will you find it on a bony rib-cage?

I want a woman who will walk in the marketplace
And others will notice her presence,
I heard women want attention, that much I will solve,
I want her big and fat, I want her curvaceous

A fat woman is the one I want
The one who will sit on two chairs
And feel “adequate”, that is my woman
We dwell in the land of plenty
I want her not to betray our national anthem

I don’t want her to pretend
Even for a second to be offended
For being called “fat”
Because that is how she will roll
And for her towering beauty
She should not apologize to anyone

She should not feed sick business ideas
Like “Diets” and “Aerobics” or “Gym”
This is a well-calculated scheme
To make her feel worthless, then when her self-esteem
Hits the rock, hey, the counselors come in
To be fat is the in-thing
I see no problem with fats to show
Just ask underfed women who can’t  hit 45 kgs
To be endowed is nature’s gift
For a gift, dear, flaunt it, let it show

Come now, sweet one, I marry you,
The assuredness of your footsteps
Will win you over to my parents
The roundness of your upper arm
Will do the trick, my woman,
The flesh in your feet and in your cheeks
Will speak of “abundance”
This they will want from the woman
Of my children

We will live big, my woman,
Big Kingsize bed, big house, big car,
Don’t worry, our door will be custom-made
You will enter it, not sideways but
As you do in a supermarket

So erase those silly images
Of underfed women
My heart melts away seeing you fat and plump,
Don’t reduce one adipose of it, or else you will break my heart,
My fat woman, will you marry me?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

We Should Learn From Children

Yesterday, the 10th of June 2012, I sat at the Aga Khan Walk of Nairobi and watched children—and teenagers— skate. I have always loved skating. I remember being introduced by it by my cousin, Sammy Situma, in 2004. I remember, with nostalgia, how I first wore the roller blades and could not walk an inch because I was afraid of falling. But after a few days, I had learnt how to skate. Yesterday, watching children learn the ‘baby steps’ in skating was so enlightening and profound; enlightening because they are the little things we learn from children and profound because there are very important life lessons that these children taught me.


Children are enthusiastic and ready to learn. They wouldn’t mind stretching a hand for help.
Most of us don’t— unfortunately.

They will be keen to learn the ropes, to take that initiative, that step of faith.
For us, again, our feet are frozen in indecision.

And they will exude confidence if given the opportunity. This is the march of life. Just watch the determination and oomph on this little girl’s face. What about the purposefulness burning in her eyes?

And she knows, too, that a friend might fall sometimes and would need help. This is instinctive. Though she is still a learner and is “without resources”, she still has the willingness to help. She does not wait for the instructor to fix things. She does not look on helplessly. She just helps. Now, that is so profound.

But, sometimes, it happens that we don’t need to go it ourselves. She knows that too. It is as if she is whispering to her friend she is holding: ‘Friend, let us walk together. We might be learners but we need each other’. In life, we need friends. We are not lone rangers. We will walk with them in this life.

We need sometimes to pause and observe. We need rest. That way we help our bodies to re-energize and our minds to learn from others. If you come to think about it, life is not about uninterrupted actions but of intermittent breaks that helped us drive inspirations from our innermost selves and careful observation of what surrounds us.

But like humans we are, we fall. We are frail, transient.

We fall,

 again, again, again.

But, fellow pilgrims,

We know that every time we fall, we need to wake up. So, we firmly fix our palms on the tarmac, summon energy within ourselves and rise up. Yes, rise up. That is the spirit we have. We do that cheerfully.

And boy, what a cheer it brings to us when we are in control of things again. But at such times, we need a helping hand because though we might be down we are not out.

We admit that there would be uncertainties in life. We might not be sure what tomorrow holds or whether what we do today will add up to the philosophy we espouse in life. But we stand at this moment in time, all geared up sizing up life with glance of our eyes.

Then we do it, somehow, even if timidly so. But this life, if you come to think about it, fellow pilgrim, is all about timidity. Those who look at life as a butterfly are those who will not chase it away by swat of their arms. The brave and those who chest-thumped, while these attributes are great and laudable, could sometimes lose vital lessons in life of patience and humility.

We do it, our own way. There is no perfect formula in everything we do ourselves. Some are sharp and quick-witted. Others are slow. Some are loud. Others are reserved. We all learn how to do things in our own way. We are all unique.

If I pull your shirt, fellow pilgrim, don’t be offended. 

Sometimes I need to get my balance from you. You have been in this game for sometime now and though my pulling you back might hold you back for a moment, we all grow and become better skaters in this life.

You are our mentors. We are your protégés. We might be young and new in all this but we will be patient to learn from you— your moves, your instructions, your mild rebukes. We will take everything with the bigness of the heart.

And it is after a short while that we will roller-skate like the real pros. Such is life, fellow pilgrim, a skateboard. The spring in our feet and willingness to learn is what sets us apart. After a couple of false starts, much learning and enthusiasm, life rewards us.

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