Amabe

(for Nyawira Nderitu 1943 – 2017)

 

Taflase* Taflase Taflase taflase seven times

in this moment of mourning

on this day of memory,

I stand a trembling tongue

without the language

to echo across the void.

 

I must begin with those who died opposed,

towards a notion yet to be clear

who threw themselves back after watching their friends die.

Who left doors open at risk of murder.

Who left notes under mats.

Who bit down their history towards a future.

Who sacrificed, resented, repented, sacrificed.

And again.

 

I am still but an idea that I am yet to grasp,

And so I stand here,

on behalf of the half tongued

cut from the source

and without the language

to echo across the void.

 

And so Taflase, Taflase, Taflase again,

in this moment of mourning,

on this day of memory

I re-member

Those who began with others,

Who destroyed their (selves),

Who lived under consistent micro aggression,

Who checked their locks eight times a night,

Who apologized “they don’t mean it,”

Who raged silently into the night.

 

I call from the docks to a boatman.

I am but a weary traveler who searched for this place

through myth, legend and intuition –

chasing traces of it in half conversations.

Now I stand here, but the dock is empty,

the sea calm and the place in ruins.

I stand on the shore calling to a boatman,

I have heard only of Katsumi

who spoke to a prophet.

But I know there are more.

And so I call out

in the language I know

to the endless sea.

Taflase Taflase, Taflase seven times,

Please hear me.

 

I ask to be heard by those who were afraid,

Who acted out of fear and lived to regret their actions,

who betrayed, backstabbed, stole, manipulated, lied,

who Chased redemption, who further withdrew,

who folded themselves to fit into spaces that were designed for their expulsion,

who took advantage,

who settled for what they could get out of the situation.

 

In this moment of mourning

on this day of memory,

I call that a boatman may ferry those who now leave,

Who listened and misunderstood,

Who have marked distance,

Who watched as the dock was destroyed,

Who have mourned their own deaths,

Who stood, defiant even when the world wanted to erase them.

Who fought beyond amnesia – and only need re-memberance.

Bless the docks once more and take them.

Take them that they may know peace.

 

Taflase: is a polite preface to a serious, possibly unpleasant or even offensive statement. May be especially appropriate from a younger spaker addressing elders. The expression is found not only in Ewe but also Akan and Ga.

Amabe: Kisii word meaning to mourn

Count the Bodies

Wycliffe Nyamweya was murdered.

A few weeks later Kwekwe Mwandaza was murdered in her home. She was shot in her bed after armed men stormed their house with guns.

Both murders were carried out by the police.

“five suspected gangsters were gunned down

they are suspected no more”

–          Something Quite Unlike Myself

I’m tired of writing about death. More particularly, I’m tired of writing about a state that is methodically killing its citizens. I’m tired of shouting into the world that human life is worth valuing. That a life is a life is a life is a life.

It gets harder to find new ways to argue this out. Instead I send out the same links. Use the same sentences; insist.

The police insist that Kwekwe, the 14 year old girl attacked them with a panga. That 8 officers, presumably trained, could only stop a child with a panga by shooting her in the head.

In Ferguson, black disposable bodies continue to be disposed.

In Gaza, bombs continue to drop.

In Nairobi we are given dead bodies and told they are thieves.

 

Something is happening in the world.

 

The word is security. This is the imagination shutting word. The thinking stopping word. The “I did it for you” word. The “how else can we protect you?” word. It is the word that keeps us silent.

I tell a friend in passing, if they shoot me – you know people will believe I actually was a gangster. He agrees. It’s easier to imagine that the people who are being shot have done something to deserve it. This is a more comfortable version to tell ourselves.

It’s not true though.

We know it’s not.

We know, because we know, that the police have been killing unarmed people all over the country for the longest time. We know, because we know that a large number of these killings are unprovoked. More importantly we know that the people who die from this violence are lives that we have already decided to devalue, to dismiss.

Wycliffe Nyamweya, Kwekwe Mwandaza and others were murdered. Their killers are still at large. And we’re doing nothing to stop them from killing again.