Woman,

You crash my mirror that reflects this reality;
Burrowed in a heap of propagated lies;
A false story you wish to pass to your folks;
Always playing victim;
Ego recreates your wishful dream,
And it’s a shame your song reflects historic falsehood and betrayal
And lust-marching in the streets of your illusion;
O thou invincible spirit of love,
If thou has no name to be known by,
Let us call thee lust.

ATONEMENT

It is sad truth of our nature that man becomes too easily brutalized by circumstance. And as the saying goes, a man of worth never gets up to unsay what he said yesterday. I met such a man, 20 years ago. The exact date doesn’t matter, but this event took place anyway, on a September night after a day when the wind had blown without pause down the dusty village paths of Nyapiedho Village.

“Burning on top! Returning under! Burning on top! Returning under!

Thundered a thin, wiry fellow called Mr. Nyoka Kaniuma, our guest preacher for that day. You must remember, dear reader, that at that point no one had an idea of what was in store for us.

“What Jehovah will do in this land wears a hat, i have said it. Burning on top! Returning under!”

The mouth that had been a benign little smile drooped and hung grotesquely, soliciting stiffled laughter from the students seated at the back. Somehow, i found myself admiring the man for his lack of modesty. For what is modesty but inverted pride? We all think we are first-class people. Modesty forbids us from saying so ourselves though, presumably, not from wanting to hear it from others.

On that particular night, on the other side of a central aisle the crowd before us pressed solidly up to the foot of the stage- a collection of bodies and heads of shaven skulls and woolly ones, of uniforms blackened by dirt and grease. The faces seemed to have lost all trace of personality. As if some giant eraser had rubbed out their individual traits, the students’ faces had taken on a common mask, the anonymous mask of a crowd. A heavy odour of sweat and of stale smoke rose like a fog, but none seemed to care at all. The church cum dining hall was ventilated by four windows, but on that particular night, these were serving as seats or as resting places for the audience- the poor in spirit.

Now there is something about our ‘Church’ I would love to share with you. The external appearance of this Dining Hall, you see, together with the punchy smell of onions frying in stale cooking-oil floated out from its kitchen to the pricked noses of the starving groundsmen and grass-cutters between eleven and one everyday, helped to popularize the impression that every delicacy sucked out of Kisumu town and loaded off the steamers in the ports of Lake Victoria came to feed the ‘few privileged’ students of Maranda High School.

Perhaps the labourers and locals, in their own way, were right. For the Lake Basin then was a region where every grain of rice and every bean sown announced its sure barrenness by turning dirty yellow the moment it shot out the salty sand. In such a region in those days, an onion was such a luxury. Moreover, the petty labourer was a creature caught in the thickening urban wilderness of landlessness, soaring prices and stupidly low wages. To such a man, for whom the obtaining of a kilo of maize unga and a handful of bitter greens for his large family’s only meal each day was always a miracle, cooking-oil, even if stale, was as undreamt-of as caviare.

But whether the then government leaders were right in using this popular misconception to whip up the envy and fury of the common mwananchi against students, calling them suckers and ungrateful exploiters who ‘feasted sumptuously everyday and wallowed in feather-beds at taxpayer’s expense’, is another matter. Perhaps the government leaders too, after their own fashion, were right. For they only made these accusations after the students’ anti-government strike and demonstrations.

Moreover, it was difficult, at least for an outsider, to find any valid reason why four out of every five debes of cooking-oil were stale; why nine packets of milk out of ten were mouldy; why nineteen potatoes in every twenty were rotten; why there were two pebbles to every grain in a spoon of rice, or why of every two consignments of chicken one was invariably poisoned. Nor could a reason be easily found why half the dishes served at every meal were always burnt or half-cooked, saltless or oversalted; why there were mosquito carcasses in the morning porridge, flies in the top layer or moth hams in the sugar; or why the drinking glasses were practically no longer transparent, because of the muck, and the cups were always coated with two centimeters of grease and the like. Mutwe Kisuli, a young man whose poor self-image and lack of direction had brought him to adulthood with a skewed sense of judgement, had once made a very apt joke about the situation when he observed: ‘Ni kama ndrama, ni kama vindeo mtu yangu. Hii ni criminal, i tell you.’

The beautiful dining hall cum Church, you see, had been designed to accommodate three hundred students. But, in a situation where double that number rushed up every year to the fountain of knowledge at Maranda High School, it was not long before it had become absurdly small for the thousand-and-some-hundred knowledge-seekers there were. So you can imagine, dear reader, how packed up it was that night. Jumbled thoughts careened through my head. I struggled to sort them. My ankle throbbed, and i seemed to drift somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. The air smelt of stale onions, cheap perspiration and smoke. I was seated next to a boy from Form II Green (at least the writings on his sweater said that), whose woolly, tangled mop of hair and wild blood shot eyes could make Lucifer run and never look back.

Other students who couldn’t find space in the crowded hall sat in a crazy fashion outside, half of them half asleep while the other half grumbling and craning their long necks to at least have a glimpse of what Mr. Nyoka Kaniuma was up to.

“Burning on top! Returning under! Burning on top! Returning under! Make way!” The preacher bellowed in an unexpected burst of English, as if quarrelling with the devil himself. This jolted me to wakefulness.

There is a trying moment in every preacher’s life, i believe. And am not making reference to the Biblical temptations. No. I’m talking about that moment of expectation a preacher has after delivering a hot sermon and expects the audience to at least step forward and receive ‘salvation’, and none of them appears. The anticipation. The suspense. The long wait. Waiting for response from one’s audience. Awkward, isn’t it? Reverend Nyoka Kaniuma might have felt the same way on that podium. But unlike other days, on that particular night, his efforts bore fruits. Ripe fruits for that matter.

No sooner had he chanted the last bit of ‘Burning on top! Returning under!’ than the students began rising from their seats, headed to the podium, as if under remote control. On that podium, you see, there was a table. What Reverend Nyoka Kaniuma meant was that students in possession of illegal stuff were to surrender them and place them on top of the table, while those in possession of stolen items were to place those items under the table.

“Burning on top! Returning under! Burning on top! Returning under!”

Needless to say, between you and me, the best that can be said about it is that it was not right. First of all, the manner of doing it. Secondly, the reason why. I will tell you the reason why it should not have been done the way it was done. But, before that, let me apologise for leaving this way. . .

©Wendo Kenyanito

Scorned!

So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.

The best that can be said about it is that it was not right. First of all, the manner of doing it; secondly, the reason why. I’ll tell you the reason why it should not have been done the way it was done. But, before that, let me tell you a story. Do not mind the frog in my throat. I tell you a tale of love. Love gone sour. Hate! This is not a story about infidelity you know, but just a bizzare truth of how far one will go for the one you loathe and despise. See, the exact date doesn’t matter, but this event took place anyway, on a January night after a day when the wind had blown without pause down the dusty noisy paths of Crossroads.

What shall I ask for?” Asked her daughter, dressed in her beautiful dancing costume, as she stood impatiently before her mother. Her mother paused a moment before answering. A thousand options came to mind. It wasn’t everyday that one had the chance to receive anything within

Continue reading “Scorned!”

Dear Lord

Maybe
Deep in the dark of the night
And in every rooster’s crow
Dog’s bark and crane’s call
In every deep laughter
And overfed hunger
Sweat and toil
Struggles
Brilliant smiles and curious stares
Maybe
They have had tones of homes-
Dear Lord
And all they need this time
Maybe
Is one with no walls,
Roofs or doors
But rather a simple sign
Hanging from the branch of a tree reading:

Land rich and fertile, plant dreams here

Maybe.

© Kenyanito.

Faithful Gentleman

And I know her thirsty self will come back, and I will certainly carry her, a willing passenger on a night train trip to the sindom of pain and pleasure and leave her there panting and hungering for more, for a thousand sins with me and more. . .

You’ve been calling her consistently for the past one hour, and she has been avoiding your calls like plague for all that while. May I add that you’re annoying and irritating, for I have to start all over again.

“Wait, Joe, I think he knows…”

No, of course you don’t know anything. You’re just suspicious,a voice in you afraid to utter out your little insecurities; lest you lose her, or so you think. Poor you!

“Lola, relax, he has no idea, it’s just you and me right now; forget him!”

I smirk back, loving the sheepish nod she gives me back.
Two or three kisses later, you’re just but a frigment of her memory, the tiny bit I can’t totally wipe. I guess she does really care for you. I don’t give a hoot anyway.
She’s all high, slowly giving in to my demands as I take pleasure in teasing her, exploring without mercy her beautiful body, an art unique in it’s own way.
Being the persistent guy you are, you call again, and this time I curse under my breathe as she picks up the phone, fingers trembling.

“Hey babe…I’m sorry…I’m at Betty’s…no bae…it’s just some assignment am trying to complet…babe I didn’t hear it ring …”

Your instincts are super good, but you’re killing the vibe. Both you and I know there’s nothing so great, nothing so joyous, as those few seconds of expectation before entering into a woman’s unknown; yet you just spoilt the moment and am here wondering what for!
So I get back to exploring, and she desperately tries to maintain her normal voice, while gesturing at me to stop. I can’t. I won’t.
Suddenly she lets out a moan. Of course you heard it right before,

“…babe I have to leave Betty needs some help with her homework…”

But you trust her. She would never play you, you tell yourself. She hangs up on you,turns her wild on and her phone off. Lo! You know how lucky you are? You probably brag about it to your friends.

“C’mon let’s do this!”

She says as she plants another kiss that triggers the beast in me. My foul-stenched self presses on hard, taking and staining her innocence with my filth, never minding her little noises. Her pained face under the moonlight beams issuing from the window, or her moans of pain, as if she is really hurt, of pleasure, as if eating honey combs and sugarcanes, and the waves of her gentle motions, fused with the creaking of the bed all play a role in ensuring that the snake in paradise gets full with the blood-warmth expectation of a heavy spit. Like a wounded buffalo, I maul her- my prey, my sweat-her blood-our breaths cast in the air as we lead each other to a point of no return.

Not so soon, a joyous trembling courses through our bodies as she gives one last moan of joy and satisfaction. The snake inside gets delivarance from the pain of this knowing, this knowledge that the faithful gentleman you are knows nothing about our little mischief.

An hour later, she’s back at your place, smelling my cheap cologne, really tired and not in the mood.

And I know her thirsty self will come back, and I will certainly carry her, a willing passenger, on a night train trip to the sindom of pain and pleasure and leave her there panting and hungering for more, for a thousands sins with me and more.

I roll over with a smile. . .
The faithful gentleman you are doesn’t mind after all.

© Wendo Kenyanito.

Boy, bye!

 We all wade across life’s streams, not even sure of our return, but hoping to meet somewhere in life’s maze while searching. . .searching for an outlet. Time comes when we have to move on, sometimes not prepared to pack our own, but only abide by nature’s commands.

But why should I believe what you say this time, anyway?”

She had raised her voice a little, protesting against what she thought was an accusation in my voice earlier. I was taken aback, startled by the vehemence of her protest: who was I,

Continue reading “Boy, bye!”

What Does Happiness Feel Like?

The morning blush’d fiery red: Mary was found in Adulterous bed; earth groan’d beneath, and Heaven’s above trembled at discovery of love.

What does happiness feel like? She asks me. Like warmth,I say.
So you can’t be happy when you’re cold?
She looks confused.
Like simplicity, I explain.
Happiness isn’t ever hard? She asks.
It isn’t ever complex?
Like success, I try.
Like achievement.
Can’t you stay happy in the face of failure? She looks worried.
Like softness, I say.
Like gentleness.
Like a tornado bursting through you,like a volcano erupting.
Happiness,I say,feels like gladness to be alive.
It feels like blanket forts and daisies and sunshine and rainstorms and old books and hidden book stores.
But I’m struggling.

She opens her mouth.
But no,that’s not it,I say.

What does happiness feel like?
She asks,a slightly pathetic note in her question,something between despair and dumb incomprehension.
Like being loved,I tell her,
And she’s finally silent,
weary of all those memories whispering in her skull.
Like loving,I say, and being loved in return.

©Kenyanito.

Morning Mischief

Stubborn as she is beautiful, gets on my nerves, drives me nuts;
Hard to believe, am normally the stubborn one, just for fun though;
She lies next to me, all calm and innocent, I love how warm she is;
Then it hits me, I have to do this; I silently creep out of bed,
“What the…aaaargh! I’ll kill you!”
She’s startled, am running for my life;
The piece of thread is still in my hand, takes her just a second to figure out what was in her ear,
I laugh myself breathless;
Soon knocks me down, pillow to the head, “Ouch!”
Hope she buys that,
Sits on top of me, holds me down, kisses my forehead;
I turn her over, “You started this…,” she smiles, “I know, I like it…,” bites her lower lip, it’s on. . .
An hour, two, back where we started;
She lies next to me and I next to her, everything blurs away, all except our smiles: a glorious morning for a morning glory

©Kenyanito.

A Matatu Sermon

“We fail to grow emotionally because of our cocoons, because we never get reason good enough to get out and face the world, because we fear being broken again, we fear that we might shutter never to rise again…”

Sometimes there’s no greatness in the past, sometimes one would like to hide the past from oneself; and that’s why we all get locked up in our moments, and we all have our cocoons. It gets to a point we all feel the need to stay away from reality for a minute or two, striving so hard to get a temporary solutions to our problems, something that will preoccupy us- it could be drugs, tears, sex, talking too much, being in a dark room, see, so many ways work for different people, you just get to choose your poison…”

He paused as if under remote control, letting his words float on air for our poor souls to feed on.

Maybe he noticed we weren’t paying attention, or maybe it was because of the hot hair that made him take out his handkerchief that had seen better days (it’s true colour I couldn’t tell) for he kept on wiping sweat from his forehead regardless. It was hot anyway, and the air itself smelt of cheap brew, perspiration and smoke. People were squashed up like cabbages and once again I thanked God I had huddled my desparate self against a window.

I couldn’t blame him for stopping like he did, for my heart felt like stopping too. Ask me why. There I was, in an overloaded matatu whose tout kept on shouting for more passengers yet all the seats were already occupied. The matatu itself, bound for the village where I was to attend a family gathering, was as battered within as it was without: the door did not close properly; the window glass could not be rolled down because the lever was broken; the stuffing was coming out of the seats; the uncarpeted metal floor, tacky with dust and grease, looked as if it had been sprayed with bullets; and the speedometer’s needle was missing- and I was hoping against hope to reach my destination safely!

I tried not to think of the small item in that morning’s paper which had reported a matatu crash in which fifteen people had been seriously injured as I heard the conductor hurl abuses at some young boys who were busy piling up pumpkins, bags of grain, live poultry and a mattress on the roof rack and on the back of the matatu. It was being overloaded, and the conductor kept on calling for more passengers to stand at half a price.

I couldn’t blame the not so keen audience (or rather passengers) either; for they too seemed preoccupied in finding their own comfort zone in the not so friendly matatu environment. Seated at the back, saying I was uncomfortable would be an understatement but at least my poor self was by the window. Knowing which window seat will face the sun is always an art mastered by the few. And today my ‘knowledge’ had paid off, at least.

Woe unto them who sat in front for they had to be pushed once in a while to create more room for other passengers, courtesy of his crookedness- the conductor. No one, apart from me, seemed to be interested in the preacher (or whatever name we call one who offers to squeeze himself in an overcrowded matatu and amidst the pushing and nagging, still manages to hang on for a while to deliver some speech to a not so concerned audience who spend a much better time on board, bargaining fare with the jolly conductor and keep on complaining about this and that, from the few seats available to the name of the bus not being visible from a distance) who had earlier began his ranting but stopped for a reason best known to himself.

I was lost in my own world of thoughts, wondering when the driver, whose woolly, tangled mop of hair and wild blood shot eyes could make Lucifer run and never look back, would find it convenient to play with the ignition key and get us out of this crammed bus station when, in an unexpected burst of English and fiery vigour, Mr Preacher continued with his sermon;

“The people who appear strong are really weak, but they appear so because of situations, situations where they had to be strong for people, situations where they let people in, got too attatched, were partially left alone there but can’t let go; not because they are too dependent, but because they value friendship, because they know what friends to family is, because they have little insecurities and trust a lot, because they value people as much as they value life. They know nothing about pretence, they are really real, they know everything about being broken, being hurt to an extent where the pain feels tangible. Do you ever feel terribly broken that you can smell the blood from the bleeding heart? So bad that the heartbeat feels like it’s no more?”

And just like that he stopped again, starving the ears of the few who were trying their best in this so crowded matatu to have a grasp of what he was saying. I fall among the category whose phone battery level determine their concentration, and well mine was running on a mere two percent I had no choice but find a distraction- Mr Preacher of course. Otherwise I would have been hooked on my screen, trying to get busy for nothing online. And so I found it amusing that I was offended that he stopped, for whatever thing he was passing across I wanted to hear all of it, and let it consume me, me of little faith; I thought in amusement.

“Now we go.”

The driver said as if reading my mind. I had been hooked on the preacher’s voice I hardly noticed a small boy who had emerged from betwen the standing passengers’ legs and had boldly planted himself on my laps with ease. I was too stunned to protest. The matatu lurched forward, and from a crack over it a hen fluttered and squawked, sending a flurry of feathers down. I could hardly breathe. We plunged into the alleys dissecting the shanties that fringed the town, and Mr Preacher started again, this time a little louder as if quarreling with the devil himself,

We fail to grow emotionally because of our cocoons, because we never get reason good enough to get out and face the world, because we fear being broken again, we fear that we might shutter never to rise again, the fear of the unknown kills us inside, paranoia does us no good. We get stuck at one point speculating, we wake up, tell ourselves we can move on; but uh your past comes creeping in, torments you and you’re back where you were. You no longer trust people, not like you’ve ever been a people’s person anyway, not like you know how to sit and tell people wassup, whats sucking up your energy. All you know is yourself when it comes to emotion. For the fear of bagging people down with your troubles, you’re a superb listener, not so a good conversationist, good communicator, sucker for emotion. Your friendships?-nothing deep, you never discuss your fears, ambitions and all. But hey, you’re never an introvert, you establish basic relations. You fear deep relations because people have become too good in masking up, so you also live behind your mask of always being happy to keep questions away, to lock people out, to preserve yourself a bit…”

He paused again, and the loud silence in the once noisy matatu sent me down a guilt trip. This matatu sermon was turning out to be one of a kind. I mean the way he laid out his preaching touched a nerve, and for a moment there I thought he was speaking to me all along. The only person who seemed to be in his own world was the driver, who broke the silence by overtaking another matatu on the brow of a steep hill and tyres screeching, took a corner too fast and swerved across the right-hand lane, these manoeuvres raising cheers from mad onlookers and arousing mixed reactions from the passengers. Even those asleep woke up and the ranting began. Undettered, Mr Preacher rather continued with his sermon, his voice getting drowned by the voices but he cared less, or so he seemed;

You’re difficult to understand, not because you play too much, but because of how you behave. You keep to yourself many times, around people you’re the one keeping the conversation going, not because you’re such a good story teller but because it distracts people from concentrating on your moments. This keeps you going, you’re always on that ‘im fine vibe.’

Who are you really? What’s in store for you? How will you ever be able to get out of your cocoon? Face the world? The risk of depression is way higher than your chances of getting your game together if you don’t get on your knees and commit to the Lord and ask for guidance, for that which there is, shall go to those who are good for it, and the burdened shall always be unburdened at the Lord’s feet, for by kneeling down we have always been decreed as warriors before His Majesty. . .”

These words trailed off as the driver slammed on the breaks, sending the matatu to a screeching halt. First stop. Those who were to alight were doing so and there was a commotion at the door as the conductor and the alighting passengers haggled over fare. I kept straining my neck in a bid to catch a glimpse of Mr Preacher but I couldn’t see him. He was gone. Just like that! No tithes requested, no prayers. Just like that he was gone, the way he came.

What a sermon- a matatu sermon! Served hot, to our thirsty souls in dire need for spiritual nourishment.

And that which there is, shall go to those who are good for it. . .” I found myself mumbling these words, as the matatu skid off, the remaining passengers deep in their own private thoughts.

©Kenyanito.