the mud the ruts the rust the dust the

peaceful raucous the busy kiosk corner

to corner the overcast

mornings the roadside colors

cloths plants makaa markets pots

the long 6 o’clock walk homes

shoes polished to perfect the smoke

the smog the mauve nocturnal shawl of

lovers drunkards addicts the mountains

of plastic layered on backs and the trailing packs of

the saviours of stray dogs       the scanty

monkeys marabous parrots and the

unapologetic more than the lack of

the tink the laughter of things falling apart now

put back together remastered

the side by side stack on stack of mabati

the eyes the mouths the smiles looking up

from the slums seen from the satellites

the evening faces alive in the flames

of slow burning paraffin lamps

the living in the eternal hope of

the closeness the contact of

one or a thousand brushed souls

the calls of churches mosques beggars peddlers

the short rains the long ones the gutters

clumped in last night’s outpours of wings

the clogged up roads of unrelenting

matatus makangas bodas sculptures canvases carwashes

puddles potholes flooded bits and bobs of lives and homes

the artful porters of mkekokotenis the ‘honey suckers’ bottlenecks

and thorny roadblocks the inventive cops the justice

of the thronging mobs the ingenuity

of scrap-work animals playgrounds sounds

recycled rattling toy wheels bicycles trains

the hard work of the hot sun and the simple

incomparable joy of the act   the bewilderment

the sheng the slang the language that shifts

adapts and gathers new meanings in minutes

the vendors of flowers sugar cane maindi

the recorded loop of the lady making soap rat poison

the sellers of everythingunderthesun who put-down

and-pack up inaninstant and yes Binyavanga, I will mention

the weekend-long drums spilling rhythms into weeks months

dreams distances children beating beginning back

into existence

the swaying the clasping the clapping of hands

the weaves of last week scattered delicate on the streets

the carefree the make believes

the purpling sea of seasonal jacarandas and the pink ocean of bombax

the trees pasted with posters of politicians astrologers mugangas

magicians crafting all sorts of advice curses potions

the malayas massage parlours the cheating husbands

the bittersweet chewers of miraa mugoka spit

mixed with njugus P.K. and the once notorious big G

the sewers of pride theft corruption the not so

sly shadows of greed deceit abandon covered up

in the name of god the loss of what was

the boisterous dawn and the continuing on

despite the despites a rekindling in the noise

the voices the toils the resiliencies of body

the life of

the poem without pause the impossible

song of Nairobi


Cut the Key/ The Key Cutter

Do not give me the key, I fear

I will lose it. Leave it tucked in

some tree some beach some

clifftop some peace

ful pocket of existence to

muddy, rust and salt. Be

picked up by some other

lusting for nothing someone

walking on the pathless dust I

once stomped upon. This


is of and of no

great importance. The idea

of a key opens nothing but


imprisonment. keeps us


just out of reach. Yes this idea

of seeking keeps us


missing, keeps us from




the key is already within us

seeking us,


sleep silly,



there is only stillness

in the insignificant

Crumbs and Stardust

Some sun of truth

some root-

less tooth

some future-

less word some

fruit unchewed


pour of juice


some outward arc

some lung of blue


some loosening pull of

pulse. Some gulf

of raw focus

some crumb of


some porous pellucid              /pellucid draw

some roadside plover

of hope, some phantom

of shore



to hold      some


pool some stream some



some surface some meaning some thought to


come into


some point of view


The Core

I am the amaranth and

the ant on the stalk


I am the grey hornbill

and the lone pebble on the floor


I am the red tailed colobus

and the half-eaten cob corn


I am color In the basking agama

and I am the rotting paw-paw


no, I am

unnoticed by it all, I am

lesser than what I saw


Bwaga-Moyo (Lay Down Your Heart



 Lay down your heart






I am remembering somewhere beyond colour


watching the desert as an ocean

in the movement of a dune


I was fainting since before the womb



I. Kumbi Kumbi


Night of the Flying Termite



The pumice is pure




I’ve lost what we come here for


The baboon knows water   I know salt

round and round the termite mound

we crawl    utter                  and dance


we are but blood, fur and salt

hardened in a ball of rose-quartz


tail now tongue

ignorance and consciousness

inhabit one palm, dis-

locate one voice


we wait for the flood and the flutter

with torchlight and bucket, finger,

handful, mouth and belly


Birth, you wanted a journey



then let me beat my own drum



II. Pamoja kama mmoja



as one



Always walking into the intersection

of your two shadows


addicted to freedom

and your own suffering


its time




time to let one go


become whole





there’s no one left

no basin to reflect

but the self


you are sacred Carlo

you are blessed,


neglected ancient



bloated over-




little more

than here  fainting

forever back

to dance



Shit, sweat, tear or piss – some/thing

has got to come out of me

stir from this


brilliance, hit or miss


simple really,


be honest




III. Msafiri Wa Sauti


Sound’s traveller



Pythons writhe around the spine

eels grip, wrestle and net deep

slipping sticky through lymph

and connective tissue



in a wriggling nest of ner-nerves

jaundiced and kissed

by mosquito spider and tick – thrombophilic

with a clot in my liver. the bleed

and the maelena

the dizziness


and this odd


odd prominence of spleen


little more

than the worms of beginning


a string of ic, ism and itis

sickness and deliverance



slumped upon symptom


PTSD —  resultant

of no solid diagnosis – mal-

practice of the doctor’s pride


dig deeper         


medicine needle intervention upon

inventive intervention


cut open, guinea pigged

repeated repeated until




this little one

is the intelligence and instinct

to continually heal




once an addict

now a healer



travelled continents on foot

motorbike bicycle tuk-tuk

train bus and Lucky

Lucky the camel


getting by

by making necklaces

out of knots

only a backpack of water

shawl and hammock



when tied to my father with a shoelace,

gun barrel

and man above us

spitting violence


he taught us how to mouth

a final goodbye with the touch

of our eyes



slept in bodies of the dead

and the dying


a life



Mother, alone in the priory


but I, I, like her


am survivor


learning that all life is

not survival


IV. Hewa na Ngozi


Air and skin



Air opened word

word now open air





In weight, freed by pain

come to will, come to

will to come to confront

accept and master

the self


a petal of presence



forever at entrance of elements

and sense, no distance exists

between elements

and self,     a chameleon

blending in amongst everything

uncovering shelter

in nature

the belly

and drum,


the beating

of my own warmth


V. Alfajiri





The noise of man is carrion

is ha-ha harm


do not be alarmed


the sound of stars and currents


the owl and the bat      circling above water


is always a-round



nothing is ominous

when the eternal walks


on the dew


on the grass






the frost climbs back

like a web retracting from dawn



lay back

pulse is a root

veining in creation


the x of xylem—

my mind






that I am not

now dies


and what’s left of (there) when you break

is love


love eterna


VI. Maji ya jua


Sun’s Water


Neck to the heavens

the cock crows not at dawn

not at quarter past four

but always


wake up

the world is always



water falls important

as nothing

we depart are born

drip drop


cell of moisture, dew—

cocoon of self,




but the echo is held

no more


the mask is best kept

on the wall



I am Oleretu


I dance with the body




in the moon’s music


of silence


in the end

the question of death

 is  answered


by more than a life


How to laugh without / Disaster


we breathe through branches and streams



we are but little people



sailing on leaves



skating on the basin


and lip


of this ripple




in the current



messages        left



for a stranger


we are the large life

of miniature



of liquid

and sponge



filtering through reed

and swan


we are all one




of the pebble



spring of water








and song



and warm


twigs in water



share the language of the sun


our heart   our palms


our eyes    our mouth


our open






of the passing tongue


utterance of the lung





Light’s breath



waters, brushes





its drum,







on trees

above us