Even silence

is a language

that takes years of learning

to master.


Have you ever watched as tea goes from a small simmer to a boil? The bubbles start at the edge of the sufuria. At first they are few. But the heat continues to excite the atoms impressing them to do more. Do you think the first bubbles get tired? Do the bubbles that burst ever get to hear that the tea boiled eventually?

I’ve been thinking about exhaustion recently.

Perhaps it is because I have been feeling tired.

But I have been thinking about exhaustion and the impact it has on the work. (What is the work? That’s a question that demands more words, and less tiredness). Ahmed writes that when we write about the things we come up against we come up against the things we write. By this logic then to stop coming up against things would be as easy as to stop writing about them. But then Lorde reminds us that silence will not save us.

But of all the apparent things

only three remain:

That you were,

that you are

and that you will be

until you aren’t

what you once was.


Time, love and memory are all functions of the same device. This is to say that we only know what we remember and we only know how to love what we know. And since we can only remember what we have experienced through time then love continues to be a labour of time and memory.

All this is what we already know in different packaging.


“We have to keep repeating the same things because they keep doing the same things.”

- Wambui Mwangi


To continue on the path of the work of memory is to manufacture the raw ingredients. What then do you chose to remember? Perhaps it is important to see the self loathing of a people and dissect it to begin to understand why it exists. Maybe not because there is anything more worth quoting than the fact that there is what is, and to begin to ask why this thing finds itself here. The why naturally will lead to a what, when, how and eventually a who. But, once this information is fully understood then the next step is, how do we change this?

How else but to keep repackaging the content to be understood?

Without the new packages we are then madmen, standing on the corner of the street, shouting the same thing on repeat. Like those first bubbles we continue to vibrate in the same spot, trying to share a heat. Like those first bubbles, many of us burst. Like those first bubbles, we are fueled by a source that is distant and has only reached us through others like us.

Still, we rise.

Closer Inspection

But, if you pay close attention, they are coming back.

The ones that you thought

you had destroyed.

The ones that you thought

you had left far in the past.

They’ve been watching,


And, if you pay close attention, they are coming back.


On twitter a troll is pushed back under the bridge. A venture capitalist ventures into the wrong territory and is quickly exposed. Unkempt hair is celebrated. And there is more and there is more. There is a restructuring happening. Paradigms, as they have been famed for, continue to shift.


There’s more to supporting entrepreneurs than motivational medium articles and random talks.

- Phares Kaboro 

“Africa Can’t Entrepreneur Itself Out of Basic Problems”

– Ory Okolloh

The problem with victim blaming as a national narrative is, eventually people begin to take things into their own hands. And, the more they do things, the faster they realise where the pain points exist. Eventually, they begin to share these pain points and identify the common denominator. Then the fingers begin to turn. Then the fingers begin to turn. And, if you watch closely enough, those who cast the gaze, now find themselves observed, learned, known.

But, if you pay close attention, they never left

The ones that you thought

you had destroyed.

The ones that you thought

you had left far in the past.

They were here. Every second.


And, if you pay close attention, they never left.


i) Kujua

The first time you walked into the classroom you felt like it was not a space for you. You sat in the front and answered every question hoping that your participation would accommodate for the fact that you really didn’t know much. Eager, ever eager, you made sure that you found the answers to the questions that would be asked. You spent many hours trying to understand the nature of questions.

Hopefully that would help you hide.

You were not meant to be there. But, if you were the best, they wouldn’t know.

(they knew)

ii) ajua

The problem, as it always has been, is life is a game. And you have never really learned how to score yet. Instead you stay in the middle of the field and keep getting better at dribbling. The number of balls that were passed on doesn’t seem to be enough to get you to the next reservoir and, while you used to be able to wait your turn, you’ve grown impatient.

This lack of patience does not stem from anywhere that needs anything urgently. It stems from shaking off pasts that you keep dropping into the holes. These pasts keep you moving towards the next cluster of pasts. You see, you need them. They fuel you and somehow, now you’re running out. Like a plant from the sun you have no light to trap. So, with no energy, you have no use. Which is fine, because you were tired of cows nibbling on your leaves anyway.

(there are only so many ways pure energy can be turned to bullshit)

iii) Jua

Disconnected from the source of energy, you have resigned yourself to watching things as they happen. Looking for patterns amidst the chaos. Trying to draw parallels and connect the bits and pieces like you saw those detectives do on the tv shows. But there was not enough space on the noticeboard for all the thumbtacks. And no thread could contort itself enough for the tale you were trying to weave.

iv) Ua

Under the guise of existence you paraded yourself around the world as a living form. You even had interactions with other people (masquerading or otherwise). By the end of all this you were left so immensely exhausted. And without a sun from which to gather your energy you instead lay yourself by the bottom of the path and watched as everything else continued to happen.

i) a

definite article. Singular.

You miss parading.

I couldn’t be bothered to name this piece

You’ve travelled in search

of answers,

ignoring all the questions

you found along the way.

I’m on the edge. Increasingly the question keeps coming back “but, why do you write?” It seemed a simple enough one at first. One that I could answer with “because I can” or “because certain things need to be said.” It’s a question that we all know that answer to because, in and of itself, it has no answer. Still, Why do you write?

If you were given a metaphor for every single piece of meat that was served in a high school ugali nyama meal, how would you use both of them? Would you spend every waking moment trying to figure out how to create more metaphors? Or, perhaps, how to increase the number of lunch times in a day? I write this piece to ask why I write this piece.

An empty cyclical path that always leads back to its tail. The beginning. Where there is a dog and another dog. Both chasing their tails and thus oblivious of each other. Ying without yang, sing without sang. The present exists in a bubble devoid of any past. As if now is new. As if now is something that has come from the big bang and the memories that we have are just things that we put in place. Are just things that we have found in place.

So why do we document them. If they don’t exist, and in not existing, we don’t exist why do we write?

The only purpose of a metaphor is to replace whatever metaphors already existed.

The only purpose of a dog is to chase its own tail, like the other dogs that came before it.

Your arms are tired

the land remains


It’s only that you consider your work digging that makes it something worth considering. But maybe it’s not and that’s the problem. Having spent all this time scooping invisible soil and planting invisible seeds you wonder why you can’t see the fruit. (Open your eyes).

I’m tired.

Honestly, I’m tired of creating, tired of writing, tired of spending every day extracting bits of myself and putting them on a piece of paper.

What did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think. I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.

- Jonathan Safran Foer,Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close


“I have thought

and thought myself into corners made of words and nightmares

and what has it gotten me,

but more thoughts.

a currency that only buys more currency”

- Neil Hillborn, This is Not the End of the World.

There is no hope in this piece.

To the one who learned to speak in silences

I don’t know how to write your letter.

I’d like to imagine that I have the right words to translate these abstractions into letters on the page but Florence reminds the machine that the heart is hard to translate. But you don’t listen to music often, do you?

Perhaps it is important to know what it looks like to watch from the outside as the body that you have seen walk unflinching into flames show its scars.

Do you ever sit and trade stories of how it was to walk down the streets of some alley overwhelmed by all the love in the world coursing through your veins?

How does it feel to contain an elixir so pure?

That is the wrong question.

I don’t know how to write your letter.


We are all just versions of ourselves. To unbecome is to become.

Were you there when they first started peeling the layers from the first fable? Did you witness it? Did it slowly unravel and fall to the ground like a ball of wool, dislodged from an empty seat by a bored cat? Or did it oppose its unravelling? How did you fight it, how did you make it listen? Was it a long and bloody fight? Or were you cunning? Thrusting a spear into its shadow at the last minute?

Did you look into its eyes as it lay there, the first layer of a vastness that is yet to be understood but has definitely been seen?

Let’s make a simple assumption. This battle happened somewhere in the universe. Given, this might not be the case but for the purpose of this discussion let’s assume it did. Do you think NASA will ever stumble upon this battleground in their never ending search for life? And, in finding nothing but death, how will they react to this?

Many questions because I do not know how to write your letter.

Last night I sat in my living room contemplating how many insects would be fornicating for every moment I spent sitting in my living room contemplating. I realized that the more I thought about the question the more complicated it became. Time, as it has been notorious for doing, refused to stop. And, in not stopping, the question would never be answered. Unless, of course, I stopped thinking about the question. But what good are answers if they can’t be felt? And how would I know if I was working towards the answer, or further into creating different forms of the same question?

If there were seven different types of kale planted in a farm whose soil was perfect for mangoes – how would we have the grapes that we so desperately need to make wine?

(insects that fornicate don’t know how to stay sober, but they do find themselves swarming around dead skin)

Is it then, that, if we follow the swarming insects, we will find ourselves standing in the battlefield where it all began? Or do we have to wait until the light hits the Hubble telescope at the right angle for NASA to read it, like the poetry that we once understood but only now long to write? Like I long to write this letter, but find myself lost inside the vortex between hope and longing.

But, like all letters that are written, I can only communicate where I am now, let alone where I’ll be when the letter is complete. Still, at least there’s comfort in knowing that this letter is written, beyond the knowledge of how, where and when. It has been written now. Here, I give you the present and hope that by the time it is past it will point to the future, a space when I (will) know how to write this letter.


A dependent observer.

Learning to Swim

But aren’t you the one that loaded the gun?

It’s you.

You went out looking for bullets,

put them in the chamber

and gave the gun to her.

You taught her how to aim

then put yourself in the crossfire.

Why then do you mourn your own death?

Unlearning a body that you had once learned takes longer than you thought it would. Having heard that it’s hard and painful you have imagined this as hyperbole. Surely, it is as easy as anything else. But nothing else is easy, and Aerosmith know that falling in love is hard on the knees. It becomes a particular headache when you actively looked for this love. For this thing that would have you spinning and pulling all kinds of sacrifice to create an awareness. But sacrifice is only a word to be used, and two forces often destroy each other in order to begin from the ashes. You were never ready to live, but you weren’t sure if you were ready to die either.

Two winds blew over the desert.

One came carrying the news of love

once found mapped out

at the bottom of a treasure box that was lost

at sea.


The over carrying the news of love

written in the ink

of a thousand histories.


Two winds blew over a desert,

raising dust as they raced towards each other.


Blinded by the storm

we continued to try and make our way forward.

Sometimes it’s easier to keep going than to stop and analyse the situation. Moving creates the illusion of progress. This is the basic principle upon which the treadmill was invented. The same principle that seems to apply now. Having spent so long running, you know nothing more than to run even when you can clearly see the landscape around you refusing to change. Change, no more of an illusion than the reality that has been presented to us.

No one’s sure when it happened. Somewhere between moving and unmoving something broke. And, in this breaking, not only was there living – there were forms of death that you knew would come, but were not ready for (is anyone ever ready or does life, like everything else, bully its way into happening in its own time?) Of course, if someone had been keen enough to know to track and analyse then the moments of breaking would have been clearer and more documented. But, in the name of progress, you chose to keep running. And you’re very fit.

The image of the oasis

as a mirage

has been in more cartoons

than I can count.


Still, when it gets too hot,

it’s easier to see water

where only dust exists,

whipped up by oblivious winds.

Everyone talks about falling in love. But, like any deep dark hole, the difficult part is scaling the walls out. So instead you sit, waiting for someone to throw you some rope.

“Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth

But it takes a hero to get out of one

What’s true of labyrinths is true of course

Of love and memory. When you start remembering.”

I Wish

“Sir, I admit your general rule,

That every poet is a fool.

But you yourself may serve to show it,

Every fool is not a poet.”

- Alexander Pope.

There are questions that birth answers. Where are the car keys? On the table. What’s the time? 1.13 pm. How many people came? 60. Who carried the potato salad home? Not me.

There are questions that birth wonder. Can you imagine what the diet of a civilization whose only source of energy is a pekele would be? Is it easier to lick your nose or your chin?

There are questions that birth questions. Did you see that? What are you talking about? That thing, did you see it? What thing?

There are questions that would rather not give birth to anything “Are you an idiot?”

Perhaps, also, there are questions that are the decorative form of language. That pepper the edges to make it worth exploring. This is the type of question that you come up against and think. Yes, I’d like to chew on that for a while. This sounds like it will give me further insight into the place of kachumbari in the larger scheme of a good chapo dondoo meal, or something less important.

“As novelists we’re just here to ask better questions”

– Marlon James

Then there are questions that fundamentally change how we think. Questions that shift perspective completely. Or, just a little bit. They aren’t that many, and finding them is like digging for gold. Extractive and very likely to be less than the demand expects. Those questions are not something that would be taken for granted. Unlike the space between here and the rest of existence.

I wish our critics had better questions.

And a Four Leaved clover

Luck, like any form of magic, is often quite difficult to brew and demands following very precise instructions and a keen attention to detail. But, as all other forms of magic, the manifestation of luck often appears effortless. So it is quite understandable that luck is seen, not only as something that anybody can have, but as something that appears at random.

This is what the keepers of the brew would have it look like. To have it known that a quick pot of luck contains many readily available ingredients ( things like a snails shell and 33 already used scratch card vouchers are not that hard to come by) would be catastrophic. Imagine what it would be like if every fool and their side kick decided to start trying to brew luck in their own backyard. Suddenly everyone would be up all night to get lucky and in more ways than two helmets could ever imagine.

Especially if the helmets in question were only just on the journey of human programming and reprogramming. After all the poetry in the world was added to other elements of the code, it would be complete. Or so they thought – as if the code can be cracked by a pliers and a slightly rusty boy.

How many ways exist to be masculine?

If you’re counting in lightyears then, perhaps you might need to account for all the dark matter that moves out of the way the moment light charges forward. Because, that’s all there is, isn’t it? A moment – and then everything else. Evaporations of a singular drop of luck that was brewed by a fool, and seven other people.

Seven other people.

Him, her, they, them, and three others who insisted on being called by their names.

If you, however, insist on using the more radical method of actually finding out, things begin to get a little interesting. And then the code begins to be slightly clearer. As if wearing a pair of glasses (the term is adequate, yes? What is your lens?)

But glasses are no good in the heat of the warm room, where the luck must sit for 16.9 antimoments before it can be used for any real reason. Which is why the keepers of the brew are very pedantic about understanding how clearly we see. But we see, and clarity is nothing more than an accumulation of lenses. The naked eye has no modesty. Only what is before it. Only what it has perceived in the moments that it wrought itself part prisoner and part prison guard.

(What good is the self if it does not exist to keep the self at bay?)

No one really knows whether the helmets managed to brew their pot of luck. Perhaps it would be something else if it was reported later. If some shell-less snail was seen on the news, telling stories of a dark night when, out of the shadows, appeared indecency. But there was no news heard, no shell missing, just a solitary pot over the dying embers of yesterday, struggling to boil.

Old Shoes

Like a shoe you imagine that you are a special fit. Still, like a shoe, companies have been making size 12 for as long as feet have existed. The people native to America used to dip their feet in smoked rubber to keep the thorns from poking their soles. Were these shoes replaceable? Did they often throw away old pieces of rubber in favour for a fresher batch?


He said he would colour the soles of his feet.

Paint them some absurd colour, maybe purple or black,

so every time he would walk down the street

They’d see for themselves, he was leaving a mark.

- Something Quite unlike myself


But what good is making a mark if the rain keeps pouring and erasing every imprint your feet leave in the sand? Hansel and Gretel still got lost despite leaving breadcrumbs every step of the way. So when you looked behind and found nothing but the last step you took and a sea as muddy as the future why were you surprised?

Did it shock you to see a multitude of people walking in the same path?

Were you meant to imagine that somehow your feet were only replicable by your feet? And that the mark you were making was somehow something that would only touch yourself? Still, you trudge forward because forward is the only way you know how to move.

No looking back because in back is what’s done.

– Common

And he who does not know his past is destined to repeat it

- Williams

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

– Fitzgerald

And now, like a shoe, you find their feet have outgrown you. You know it isn’t personal but, somehow, it feels that way. You watch as they continue to move and wonder how many times you will be resold at gikomba before it’s over.

You are here

But even though

they try to forget,

to hide your pain

behind layers

of unbecoming;

remember that

you are here.

Remember that




Gukira recently asked about being present; about the demands to be present active and alive. To be aware in the moment and notice that there is now. I’ve been wondering about what we mean by present. How we define now, the moment, the existing? If a tree bears fruit in the forest, is it still sweet? What is the present but occupying the moment that you have, where you are, how you can? What are the demands to be present?

What do the demands to be present in the frames of the present make of us?

If, in my dreams, every night, I am running away from something, am I running? Or is it that my mind, unable to comprehend what is going on, moves away from itself? Am I there? Or am I in my bed? Tossing and turning, waiting for the night to wait itself out into the patience of day. Day, which will then wait itself out to the rush of the night and so forth until the sun decides not to rise again. How do we situate ourselves somewhere here?

“I died from merely existing. As me.”

- Neo Musangi, Lamentations


To address any question of how to exist cannot begin without thinking about who we allow to be present. This space, this “now” that has been created, who is allowed to occupy it? Who is decidedly, later? Where are they to wait? Is there a line where the other nows line up, saving their time for a later that is close enough to hope for but far enough to not be now? Whose presence?

Even when you speak

they will try and keep you



They will try

and keep you



Speak anyway.

 What happens when those that we have decidedly excluded from now begin to occupy spaces in currentness? Is currentness even a word? Is there a shred of phenomenology in a moment that can only be described after the fact? (Or is that the complete essence of phenomenology?) I return to Gukira:

“The present cannot be written, for all writing is always in the past tense. An easy lesson. And one that causes despair. This thing slips away. Or turns away. The present turns its face against us.”

Being Present

So how do we begin to write about something that is happening? What is it to state that something is happening? What is it to demand to be a part of now? How do we create spaces for ourselves and for those around us that they too can exist in and of themselves? Is it even possible? Creating new forms of love and care are often sidelined to forms of labour and affect that are not worth considering. Or, now considered – then what? The imagination of masculinity refuses to open up to places where it has refused itself to go. How do we crack the code?

In a mall a man refuses to walk into the make up aisle because those things are for women because, somehow, the idea of those things being for women, means that there will be something taken away from him. What does this mean? Just as the demand for presence speaks, what does the demand for absence say? I will *not* be there. I *can’t* do that.

That’s why art continues to be such an allure. There’s a way art persists, art demands. Art stands somewhere and refuses to be unheard, to be unseen. Art navigates it’s way through whispers and shouts, through gaps between what is being said and what is being heard; what’s being seen and what’s unseen; what’s being felt and what has been tucked away. Art finds a way to be heard, because, in being heard, the present is grown. The present is occupied. Even if by the time it is occupied, it is the past. And, because the past becomes the present becomes the past becomes the present it somehow creates space for now. And that’s what the power is, right? The power to create paths, the power to create different forms of imagination.


Have you ever walked

on the shards

of ideas you once had?

If you’re not careful

you might cut yourself

trying not to unbecome



Trust your art.