Amalgamation

The idea of kintsukuroi is one that’s held onto you for a very long time. Somehow you imagined that if you held onto it hard enough you’d have enough gold. And they have seen the gold, they long for the gold, but they do not want to talk about the cracks. About the number of times that you have shattered yourself against the wall to start again.

(but even then you remember that others have been shattered against the walls themselves)

Misery loves company.

Misery knows no company.

Adabu ya kaburi aijuaye ni maiti.

Even in the graves they have turned over to listen to the pumping that has kept you alive for longer than they expected. Somehow you were set up to run into walls, and somehow you keep running into them, and somehow they keep breaking. This is not through any super power of your own, you just ran into enough walls to realise that eventually they break – and that’s long after you’ve broken.

You just ran into enough walls to break.

And learned the art of kintsukuroi.

Still there is something romanticizing about this. Still a friend reminds me that everyone must, at least, be allowed to romanticize their situation; the world is cruel.

What’s wrong with imagining better?

what’s better?

I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out – but not this.

But I like this

But I don’t

So what now?

I don’t know

You must

Why?

 

 

 

You Will See Me

One wonders what happens when black bodies continue to refuse to be unseen. What does it mean to demand visibility in a world that goes out of its way to keep you silent? What does it mean to have your visibility taken away?

(What, I wonder, does black excellence mean?)

A story is told of David Rudisha going in for the world record in the 800M finals. The wording changes from tongue to tongue but the story remains the same. One version has Rudisha telling Kitum “Timothy, I am going to give some simple advice to a fellow Kenyan: do not follow me if you want to win a medal.”

One wonders what it is to go into a race knowing that you are going to win.

I like to imagine a version of a story where Injera puts the marker in his socks before the game knowing what’s going to happen. I like to imagine a version where he only puts the marker in his socks in this one game. Where he cuts and the marker scratches his calf muscle; a reminder. Where every single stride is pushed by, “it’s time now. They will see me, I will be known.”

(What does it mean to want to be known?)

I’m wondering what demands for humility entail. Love, Deray reminds us,  is never a request for silence.

I’m confused about what a request for silence is.

A story is told of Okwiri Oduor winning the caine prize and Binyavanga immediately beginning to delegitimize it. Kwani nini?

(What, I wonder, does black excellence mean?)

Still, Elani and H_Art the Band continue to pack rooms to the thousands.

Somewhere inside the idea of humility lies a construct that reminds us that we are not enough. Somewhere inside the idea of humility lies a need to remind people that they are not enough. Something inside the need for silence demands silencing.

(Checkmate beats a drum, the pulse of a city reverberates “hakuna kujificha tena kwa giza ukimess up – put everything on the table, face facts.”)

A violin speaks, a violin replies.

And then a dance. And then a dance.

Still we continue creating, putting markers in our socks to remind us, it’s time.

Reaching

A coin drops, rolling it begins to gather dust, spinning through behind an old newspaper. The one that you read last night that had the story about the person who did something to get attention and fail. It was a stupid ass thing.  You like stupid ass stories, they remind you that you are not crazy. Still, it becomes strange to imagine that somehow you would be consoled by a story about a person from years ago. As if somehow remembering that things have broken in the past will help you navigate the cracks that have formed themselves on the soles of your feet.

The world, you have been told, will cut you. Protect your soul

It continues to roll until it settles under the old rocking chair that your father bought but never used. The rocking chair that has always been a symbol of a possible future as opposed to a presence. In your mind you see your grandfather in that chair. He has been away for so long that you have begun to forget what he sounded like. You are afraid of that, that if that voice disappears there’s something that you need to let go of but won’t.

Pain brings you back to the present.

A rocking chair rocks against fingers that were never meant to be where they were – a coin remains lost.

A Beginner’s Guide to Walking in the Rain

It will be around 6pm and you’ll be at work. You’ll convince yourself that it’s not going to rain and, even if it does, that it can’t happen before you get home.

It will be 6pm you will want to walk because walking is fun – and the rain is far.

It will be 7pm, it has begun to drizzle. Around your feet little puddles have began to form. As you criss cross through the traffic find small things to fascinate you. Sing to yourself, sometimes in a small voice, sometimes in a large one. Sing cheesy songs, feel the rain on your skin – no one else can feel it for you – only you can let it in.

Count the distance between thunder and lightning. What was the formula 3 seconds, 5 seconds? Think about googling the formula – remember it’s raining. Start making puzzles in your mind to figure it out, think about whether you are walking into the storm or walking out of the storm.  Realise that you are getting wetter – you’re probably walking into the storm. Laugh at yourself for being silly.

Remind yourself at every step that it’s okay.

Walk on the edge of the pavement to avoid stepping in a puddle of water, as if there are different forms of wet. Stumble, almost fall – don’t fall. Imagine the world as you audience and the pavement as a tightrope, don’t fall. Stumble, almost fall, don’t fall – make it.

Stop.

Look back.

Congratulate yourself.

Keep walking, encourage the people you meet on the way. A firm grunt will work, a firm grunt might not work. At least you tried.

Check the wet level – still pretty wet.

Cross the road, cross back. Cross the road again.

Remind yourself why you are walking in the rain – find the reason silly, look for further reason. Imagine yourself as unstoppable, tell you the things that you need to hear.

Keep going.

Pass by people who have umbrellas – notice they are as wet as you. Congratulate yourself for not having an umbrella as if it was a premeditated thought.

Keep walking

It’s still sucky, but that’s fine.

Keep walking.

You are more wet than you are dry now, and the rain has increased to a steady fall. Go through a period of self hate. Begin the lecture in your head.

Stop it.

Start it again.

Stop it.

The tussle is unproductive.

Begin to calculate the half-life of the journey. Estimate it in minutes, then in kilometres, then in songs. Eventually you will find yourself measuring things in crickets per burn-hole squared. You don’t even know what that means but it’s okay, no one does, and you need to pass the time.

Notice that cars are stuck in traffic – congratulate yourself for being unable to buy a car. You always knew walking would get you home faster (you never knew walking would get you home faster, You really just want to be dry)

10 minutes left

It gets harder, the fatigue has began to set in. The strain on your calves is probably more than you would normally settle for, the rain has fallen into your mouth so often it feels like you are swimming. Your jacket has absorbed so much water it has become another weight and you honestly just want to sit down and cry.

5 minutes left.

At this point life is probably crap. Nothing makes sense, but that’s okay because nothing ever makes sense. Keep walking. Johnny walked, so should you. Johnny, there is some at home. Feel the warmth of a stiff drink go down your throat, warming you in a welcoming violence.

2 minutes

You are in familiar territory now, you should buy food from the shop – but that involves stopping, and stopping is not a good idea. The thought of whiskey led to hot shower fantasies and every step you take adds an element to the meal that you want to prepare. In your head, you are home.

In your heart you’re home.

Look up.

Open the gate.

you know how some people answer questions some times?

 Truth? You want to know of truth?

But surely there are other things to talk about. Just last week I met this guy who knew nothing of what he was talking about. He went around telling everyone that the world is round, just like that. He pointed to the sky, and said something about how it meets the ground. I mean, yeah, that’s weird but everyone knows light bends once it has travelled to a certain distance. Why, the madman even wanted to go by himself to prove it. We couldn’t allow for there to be any instances of falling off the edge of the earth, how could we explain it to the council? By the time we got to filling the forms, writing up every detail all to prove what? Something we already knew? That’s absurd.

Haven’t answered the question? Of course I have I told you everything I know. Oh, the question about truth? Well, you see it’s not that complicated. There was this lady who wanted to go home and she had the nerve to sit on a chair. Now you have to understand everyone can sit on chairs, chairs are for sitting but when there’s not enough chairs, there’s not enough chairs. It just makes sense. Someone has to do something for the space to be comfortable. There’s no need to go around causing trouble. Sometimes it is important to remember how the world is, how the world always will be and just accept your place. We all have

roles

to play. Now make me a sandwhich. Don’t you know the way to man’s heart is through his stomach? Once again you don’t understand. You want me to love you but you don’t want to make me love you. This is a two way street. You know how it is, sometimes it’s rough out there we just need to make in here better for us. And the best thing to do is to just do the things we’re supposed to do, can’t you see? It’s the only way.

Wait, you’re still asking me about truth? What truth is there but that the world is an abstract and horrible place. That there is only one way to go around the notion of being here one day and not the next. What truth is there but death, and if we even doubt the permanence of that then what truth is there?

 But, what are you asking? What question could you possibly have asked that I haven’t answered. Truth? You’re still talking about that? I think I’ve been very clear on the matter. I’m honestly tired of explaining it to you but I’ll do it one more time then I’m going to sleep. Listen closely.

Truth is a tricky thing sometimes it exists, sometimes it doesn’t but most times it’s like trying to catch the wind that follows the hawk after it’s taken that piece of chicken from your hand on visiting day. That chicken that you had spent the last 3 weeks dreaming about as you ate nyagus na sembe. Nyagus, in irony. It really was really a piece of meat drowning in a sea of potatoes. Starch on starch on starch, every single meal. Watching the last piece of chicken taken away by another bird and pulling at the wind as if the air will co-opt itself into your plan.

You still want the truth? But surely I’ve said it all. How much more do you want me to tell you? Just the truth? I don’t understand your question, I’m sorry. I’m tired – allow me to sleep. I promise to pick up on this soon. The truth, that’s interesting…

Reading Queer Africa

A man on the bus reaches across to turn the book I’m reading on it’s front, you know, the way someone does when they want to see what book you’re reading? Yes.

Oh.

Okay.

A dis ease.

(dis ease, disease – a question: where lies the real ailment?)

 

20 minutes of a bus ride endure shifts, shiftings and questioning eyes.

 

*

A conversation

“why are you reading that book?”

“because it’s interesting?”

“well are you?”

“am I what?”

“queer?”

“does it matter?”

“no”

“then why are you asking?”

 

A dis ease

(dis ease, disease – a question: where lies the ailment?)

 

*

The smoke in the bar is parted by elevated voices. The bible, one drunk man states, does not allow it *hiccup* it is a sin! Another, more reasonably, asks why I’d want anyone to do that to me. This, he sees, is the real problem – I don’t fully grasp what it is I’m talking about.

Their friend is in the car, he will not wait for me.

A dis ease

(dis ease, disease – a question: where lies the real ill ailment?)

*

An existence erased.

 

An erasure existed.

 

A dis ease

 

“no longer at ease, things fall apart”

- Chinua Achebe

 

How many fractures will it take to break her bones?

 

A disease

A question

A fraction

An erasure

A book.

(but mainly its cover)

Before the Cake

Allow me to say something before I speak. I was born in a little town right on the edge of the south border of Mugirango. Back then there were no ways to tell people everything about your life over the internet like there are now with the facebooks and the like. We had to find inventive ways to do things. Your father, who was just a little boy at the time, once wanted to warn me about your grandfather. Now, let me tell you something about your Socoro.

He was a stern man.

And your father was a cheeky boy. So this day I came into the house and your dad was seated on the couch across from socoro. I could tell, just by looking, that he had done something. Immediately he saw me…. You know how when the one thing you’ve been dreading happening happens and you can’t help but stare? No? Or like, remember in Game of Thrones when the big guy was about to kill the little guy then the bigger guy came? What was his name again?

Yeah, like that.

So your dad gives me that look and I think, shit. Socoro on the other hand looks like he has won the lottery. He turns his head slowly (he was never in a hurry for anyone) and then he asks umetoka wapi? And your dad, this is priceless really, he is mouthing out as eloquently as he can something or the other. I’m trying to figure out what he is saying but also trying not to look at your grandfather in the eye. After all, it won’t help your dad if he figured out that I was trying too collude. So there are three or four seconds of awkward silence and I’m about to blurt something out. Your dad can clearly see that I have not understood what has been said so he gets and dashes out the front door laughing. Mind you, he knows that he will be thoroughly whooped when he comes back home – but he didn’t care.

Those are the genes that you are marrying into. The genes of a man who can always think of a third option. Of men who notice danger and laugh, not because the danger will go away but because you might as well die happy.

But more importantly, those are the genes of a man who will not jeopardise you to save himself. As soon as he was out that door I said shule, shrugged and went to my room. Turns out I was meant to say something else but that would have led to more questions that I would not have been able to answer and I’d have been in trouble too. Your dad saw that and, ran off – attracting attention to himself rather that to the fact that I had tried to collude with him (which was quite the major offence too).

You had told me not to embarrass you at your wedding and I promised you I’d do something better – I embarrassed your dad. I wish you both happiness, love and prosperity wherever you go.

Thank you.

Lunar Conversations

It was supposed to be a conversation about the moon which, by the way, was looking lovely last evening. Instead it became a discussion on a romantic dinner. While this would not be out of the ordinary (for many a romantic dinner has been had under the moon) the path was interesting. The discussion had moved from the moon to a lifetime ago sitting in front of an old tv on the green carpet. Danger mouse, or some other rodent based cartoon was playing. A moon landing revealed that the moon was indeed made of cheese.

Which then made you hungry.

 You relocated to the kitchen where the conversation turned to cheese. ‘The chili chive cheddar is really good.’ This is a name you only like because it alliterates. Even as this discussion is happening you grated mozzarella from the frozen section of the (un)supermarket down the road. Then you sat on the kitchen floor eating pizza made from toasted bread, a paste of onions and tomatoes, yesterday’s beef and cheese. It was fantastic. It was horrible. It was okay.

And there’s no way you could have talked about cheese without talking about wine right? At least not when the dry microwave pizza was stifling conversation and there was half a bottle of merlot somewhere in the corner. Glasses and sips brought memories. That time in that place with that person when that thing happened. That other time in that other place. Stories of sneaking out of hotels with wine bottles. Stories of going to parties where the wine was flowing so hard that the host fell off her seat mid conversation. Stories of lack of wine and the grace of last week’s pockets. Journeys into pieces of history that would have otherwise faded away.

A point of motion.

The kitchen floor only allows for people to travel so far before the cold becomes a problem. The living room has seats – this became a good idea.

There’s something about the moving of bodies that shifts conversation. A re arranging of thought sparked rethinking. Where was the evening? Music. A new sound – it’s always a new sound. Something that is magic, not in the way yesterday was magic, but magic none the less. Beauty exists everywhere the real work is in seeing it.   But where was the evening. No, listen to the music, can you not hear this?

A pushing

A pulling

(but where was the evening?)

Wine. French wine? Always French wine. Paris is as romantic as they say – a romantic. Conversations are gathered. A hotel room in Paris, a tale of lost luggage in an airport. A story of a lost shoe on the subway, not getting to see the Eiffel tower, getting to see the Eiffel tower. Dinner one evening with a former lover, in a quiet restaurant, in a small town in France, under the moon; which, by the way, was looking lovely last evening.

A Return

A boy sits in front of a piano.

Something sits wrong. Not ready.

A boy sits in front of a piano.

Eyes trained, their stares burning

holes into his mind. Their eyes

see his unknowing fingers. A memory

fails.

A boy sits in front of a piano

 

(this is not about a piano)

(this is not about a boy)

 

 

Tears well up as he sees the

end, riding steadfast, powerfully

into nothing.

Fingers that know to put their left leg

in, but have long since forgotten

how to take their right foot out.

 

A crescendo, increase pace

vigour. Maybe, if you go harder

you will burst past the edge.

Whispers to a story

 

(this is not about a boy)

 

The surprise symphony is

best known for its halting

staccato. Haydn is said

to have written this piece

under the influence of 70 eyes

in a hall at the KICC. But rumors

are only fuel to immortality. Not

worth considering.

 

Except maybe

in a conference room

as a part of an audience seated behind judges

watching a piano

an empty seat

and a half complete symphony.