Here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

It would have been easier for all of us if you had typed that it will be your death day. I wouldn’t have attended your event and stabbed your neck in rage. The mob wouldn’t have killed me too.

If only you had typed the truth.

But instead, you typed that it will be your birthday, which was so unimportant to me yet so striking. You had just broken our young relationship and I was finding it hard to pick my pieces from the cold floor. After seven days I texted you the way a normal guy in love would. I told you I still loved you and all you could reply with were those laughing emojis. And then I asked you whether any events would be occurring in church.

“Well, it will be my birthday…”

It wasn’t a call but I could clearly read the tone of your message.

I thought that I really stood a chance to get you if I just came to your birthday to please you. Don’t they say that you should never forget a woman’s birthday? I didn’t want to be that man.

I told you that I would come read you a poem.

And you lied again, you said yes.

I knew you loved my poetry. It was the last bait I had of getting you back. It was the one I had used to get you in the first place,

Your living room was small. The church youth had to rearrange the seats for all of us to fit in. I took the front seat, the one near the window where I could easily jump out in case your CID dad came snooping around. He never did. I think we could have engaged in an intelligent talk between a potential thief and a policeman, on why thieves exist in Kenya. I think I could have taught him some martial arts and helped him on some investigative work and intelligence on how to track thieves in Dandora. That way, it would have been easier for me to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

But again, here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

How did we get here? Getting to read the poem was a struggle. You had already convinced everyone in the church youth that I was a stalker you didn’t want nearby. How? I don’t know. But who wouldn’t believe a sweet voiced nineteen-year-old girl when most of the youth leaders were males in their twenties. The queen of the youth would easily steal their hearts with her beauty. I wanted to be a part of that beauty too. Finally, weak and shaking, I managed to secure a chance to read the poem, despite your facial expression daring me not to.

The three last words in the poem. I tried to judge hard whether to read them or not. They came out by themselves. As a tear. An orgasm of pain that released me from my cage.

I said I love you.

I blessed the cake with my words.

Everybody laughed out loud.

I sat down, satisfied.

But the youth leaders were not done with me yet.

They wanted to confirm whether what I had just said was true.

They asked you to choose the first person you would give the cake.

I waited.

You called a leader.

He refused.

You insisted.

They insisted back.

I waited, seated in an awkward position.

You called him by his first name.

George.

I couldn’t hold myself any longer.

I couldn’t watch you give away our smile.

And so, here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

George survived the fork stabs, otherwise he would be here with us too.

 

 

Of School Going Teenagers with Big Phones and Soft Hearts

The local kibanda has nowadays become my second home thanks to my poor cooking skills and busy schedule. The place is deserted, as few people around this area have a brunch at 11am. The usual suspects are here, Mathe and her coworker. I order tea and two toasts while waiting for the main dish to warm.

My eyes rove around to a high seat on one corner. A girl sits, her head bowed, her arms across her chest. She looks barely fifteen, and her eyes are covered in large shades. I guess that’s what they call stunners. She wears a grey pullover and a black trouser, making the hotel look like a funeral.

“Wewe leo umeamua haukuli.”

The statement tells me that she has not eaten anything today. And according to the way Mathe is talking to her, she is most likely her daughter.

She does not even open her mouth or nod her head. She answers in sobs, those ones that sound as if you are drinking some porridge and you want everyone to know that you are not willing to share. I pity her. I almost go to hug her but I choke on my tea.

Mathe goes out to call a bodaboda. I learn that the young girl has lost a phone, that is why she is crying. Not a Malkiat Singh, or S M Patel, or a calculator, or a P. E kit, but a damn freaking phone. I pity her even more.

Now she won’t be able to talk to talk to outsiders while at school, text or send pics. She is likely to become traumatized the whole semester and probably flop in her grades.  I almost ask to give her some counselling but I check myself. My motives will most likely be misinterpreted. The irony.

An older woman, likely to be her grandmother or aunt, comes in before the bodaboda does. She becomes very concerned with the state of the young girl whose eyes have become water liquid and her heart ice cold. The older woman pleads with Mathe to buy the phone. Mathe says the daughter has refused a Mulika Mwizi phone. The worker, who turns out to be a relative, advices the daughter to find a string and be tying the phone around her neck so that her friends can stop stealing it. The daughter cries out some more. Mathe eventually gives in to the pressure and dishes out money for a brand new smartphone. The daughter pockets the money and leaves, not yet happy till she sees the phone in her hands. She doesn’t even eat. All I can do is stare as my main meal arrives.

I hope to be a father and a daddy one day. I just don’t know how to bring up my children. I hope they open up a parenting school soon.

 

Ulimi Tamu Album Review

i-writeNg’ash P aka Ulimi Tamu, has deep spiritual poetry that revolves around the issues in his background. He is good in delivery, word play and storytelling, making him an all-round spoken word artist, a rare thing to find in this industry. His well-done videos feature common themes such as calling out the evil in church, and very unique themes that only the trained eye of a talented artiste can spot, an example being the cry of a boy child who has been condemned by the society to an ego that cannot seek help. Two of his pieces, Mercy ya God and I Write, are very personal and relate to his journey as an artist. Mercy ya God speaks about the hardships faced by upcoming artists, such as hustling for fare then being denied the chance to perform, while I Write speaks about the dreams the Prophet from Githurai has, including taking his art to the standards of King Kaka, Kitu Sewer, Juliani and Vigeti.

My favorite piece in the album is ‘Phonecall’, as it brings a unique story of a boy who most people would condemn as reckless. The character highlighted in the piece is talented in poetry but is also lost in booze, drugs and women. Instead of condemning as most Christians would, Ulimi realizes that his friend needs help and instead prays for him, making a phone call to God. It is also good to note the writing gradually improves from the random punchlines in the first piece ‘Random Thoughts’ to the coherent storytelling in the last three pieces ‘Phonecall, Mercy ya God and I Write. Hopefully, his second album will be even better. Ulimi Tamu does not work alone on the album but also features great artists from his hood such as Arap Symore, Hannah with the sweet vocals in Be my Guide and the brilliant acting of K-nine as well as many other of his friends. The album goes for only kshs 200. You can make your orders by calling 0700021278, and yes, it is the first visual spoken word album in Kenya.

The Stolen Bible

Omar looks at the bible in his hands. Funny how he had revered it, used it to turn the hearts of others and even worshipped it. He now considered it an abomination. It is the one that had made him chase away his younger brother. Just because he had stolen it. The bible.

But today he is going to make all that change. Today he will go look for his brother wherever he will be and apologize to him. Today he will bring him back home and they will live together forever after, with no bible coming in between them. He carries the bible, and a recent photo of his brother between the pages. And of course he has to have the collar in his shirt. He is a pastor after all.

These streets are unfamiliar to him. They stink of rotten cabbages and sweat from workers. It is hard to believe that his brother now lives on these streets. He has to get him out. He removes the photo from the bible and starts showing it to the sellers.

Some faces turn to look away, others twist into queer shapes. He looks at the picture again. Yes it is his brother, and they resemble one another.

Maybe adding a verse or two from the bible might help.

He opens the bible and start reading, but still they won’t look at him.

He walks away downcast, feeling dejected, shaking his head. He has to get his brother away from these people who don’t even know how to welcome a visitor, let alone listen to a man of God.

He turns a corner, and it is as if he has walked into heaven. He sees his brother running down a hill, a clutch bag in his hands. He spreads his arms wide and wears a great smile. But his brother won’t stop. He knocks Omar over and continues running. Soon a crowd appears in hot pursuit. He tries to rise up but his legs won’t just move.

***

Mosoti reaches the shantie glad that he has made it alive. It was close, he had almost got lynched, but somehow the crowd baying for his blood had stopped chasing after him. He was glad he had passed the test, and would now become a member of the gang.

He found the senior most member of the gang seated alone on the bed, a gun on the table.

Mosoti could tell that Senor, as he was referred to by everyone else, did not like him very much. He wished that Sammy, Senor’s junior, would have been there.

“Ako wapi Sammy?”

Mosoti gathered his guts and asked. After all he was a member of the gang now.

“Umekaa sana nikamwambia akuje kukutafuta.” The bearded face of Senor didn’t even turn to look at him. Did that mean that he had failed the test now? Because he stayed too long?

Mosoti opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when a figure appeared at the door.

“Mosoti anauliwa huko kwa barabara, twende tukamsaidie.”

“Mosoti ako hapa.”

Sammy looked at Mosoti and blinked.

“Nani huyo anauliwa huko kwa barabara.”

“Mi sijui, na hiyo si shida yangu, mi niko uhai hapa.

Sammy sits down, but the gloom never leaves his face. He hold his chin in contemplation.

“Huyo mtu anakaa ka wewe”

The comment sets Mosoti’s mind in motion. Only one person looks like him. But he lives in uptown. No, he couldn’t be the one.

“Nadhani Mosoti sasa amepita mtihani wa kwanza.”

Mosoti almost jumped at Senor’s words, hoping to catch them and fly with them out of the window, but he controlled himself.

“Lakini mtihani wa pili bado.”

“Twambie kwa nini umetoka kwenye umetoka ukakuja kujiunga na sisi?”

That was the question he dreaded most. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone that he had ran away from home after an argument with his elder brother about a misplaced bible. Was that why he wanted to join the gang? Mosoti swallowed hard and opened his mouth to speak.

“Na ukitudanganya tutajua.”

Senor’s words cut the air like a sharp razor. And Mosoti was sure they were true.

“Tulikosana na bro yangu nikatoroka nyumbani?

“Uko na bro?” “ Anakaaje?”

Sammy’s hand were now on the gun.

“Hawezi kuwa ndo huyo.”

“Ebu nifuateni, hatutaitikia mtu auwawe juu ya makosa yetu.”

Mosoti is out on impulse. Senor is reluctant but Sammy points the gun at him. He follows.

***

 

A stone hits his side, someone steps on his stomach, another kicks his groin. The pain is unbearable.

“Choma yeye, mwizi.” They shout in unison.

These slum people, they just won’t understand.

“Mi ni Pastor, mi si mwizi.”  He tries their lingo.

“Nyi mapastor tunawajua sana. Nyi ndo wezi wakubwa zaidi.” The voice sounds familiar, maybe from the earlier encounters in the street.

A tyre is brought. The petrol too. He can do no more to protect himself. He is slowly slipping into unconsciousness. He clutches tighter to his bible. He will die with it, and the picture of his brother inside.

There is a gun shot in the air, and everything goes still. He thinks he is dead, but he can still hear their voices, see their faces.

A familiar face stands a short distance from him.

It is his younger brother, Mosoti, holding a gun in his hands. Two other rugged youths stand beside him.

He gathers all his strength, covers the short distance between them in short painful knee steps. Everyone stands still, staring, breathless. He reaches them a short moment later, presents the bible to Mosoti and mutters the most painful words in his life.

“Sorry for calling you a thief. I am the one who had misplaced the bible.”

And then he collapses, gives up his life.

***

Mosoti leads the memorial service by the grave. He wears a cloak and carries The Bible. Sammy and Senor are by his side. The people listen and watch on.

The Spill (Short Film Synopsis)

In the modern world, terrorism has become a major threat to property and human life. Kenya has been no exception with the highest number of hits targeting institutions of higher learning. With the security personnel proving to be unreliable most of the times, it is the responsibility of each individual to be on the lookout. The spill tells the story of Anne, 19, an intelligent art-passionate girl with her dreams vexed on becoming the next entertainment secretary but she finds herself caught between two terrorists, one of whom she has a crush on.

Caged

“Our crimes are that we are beautiful” Leo the lioness roared to Zed the Zebra, who was in the next cage, then went and sat on a boulder in the corner. She reached for the metallic food container with one paw and overturned it. It was empty. She made a loud roar, one for hunger, hoping the wardens would hear her.

“But then if we were free you would be giving the chase of my life out there in the wilderness, if you wouldn’t already have eaten me by then.” The zebra lazily replied, lying prostate on the ground and rolling a few times. The mound of grass in the corner was still untouched.

“You mean you like this? You must be such an idiot.” Leo angrily stood up and began tearing at the wires separating the two cages with her teeth. Catching a sharp edge, she let out a painful yell and went back to her boulder, face gloomy.

“It is better to be alive in a cage than always being on the run without committing a crime, always being ready to be eaten.” The zebra let out a loud laugh.

“Coward” Leo roared, jolting back to her feet. “Your ancestors should hear you, being afraid to be eaten. Those who galloped on all four legs, jumping across streams that we couldn’t, leaving us stranded on the other end. Those whose tough necks resisted our teeth, pulling them out, and making us die in starvation. Those who made us the tough lions of Masaai Mara. They should hear you.”

Leo paused.  Zed wasn’t listening. His body was calm and he started shifting his long athletic legs into various positions, as if a model posing. Leo turned round to view who had caught Zed’s  attention. A couple stood just outside Zed’s cage, slim phones in their extended hands, clicking, taking photos. The guy, dark skinned and in blue jeans, purple polo shirt, stopped clicking and extended his hands around the girl’s waist; she, light-skinned and in red dress top that reached just below the waist and black almost transparent tights.  The girl shrugged and pushed his hands away. “Can’t you see the animals watching?” She turned to him with a sneer and smiled. He smiled back.

“What do you think about them?” Leo asked.

“Such a beautiful couple. Reminds me of my days in the forest with my girl friend, admiring fish in the water as they swam in the River Mara.”

“You are wrong again.”

“Why? I’m never right to you. All you see in me is food.”

“Can’t you see the guy wants something and the girl doesn’t want to give it?”

“What?”

“Sex, you fool.”

“Why do you say so? I mean, the girl just refused her waist to be held.”

“And that shows so much more.”

Zed downed his head, half closed his eyes looked at the couple keenly then nodded.

“Well, she will agree eventually.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” Leo growled back.

“What if she refused? Could he take it by force?”

“That would be a crime. Rape. Fool again.”

“So, none of them is really free to do what they wish?”

“Now you are getting me. They just have to agree. But till then, they are caged. Just like us.”

The weight of the new information being too much, Zed sat down and lowered his head in meditation. Leo went back to sit in her corner, watching her prey keenly.

“I have a plan.” Finally she said, waking up Zed whose eyes had just began to close.

“Which?”

“We can escape tonight if we agree. We can be really free, finally.

Zed squinted his eyes and looked at Leo with suspicion. Studying her face closely, he opened his mouth.

“How?”

“We create a scenario, at night, howl like we are in deep pain. The guards will come, open the cages, and then we will lower their guards with comics. I’m sure they have never seen a lion play with a zebra. Then we will give them a surprise attack.”

“That’s quite a plan.” Zed nodded, half closed his eyes and sat on his back legs, his head down cast. Leo looked on, a smile forming on his snout. Suddenly Zed jerked up, started running around his cage in loud laughter. Finally he stopped at the corner where the grass was, picked a mouthful and walked with it up to where Leo stood watching, only crisscrossing steel wires separating their faces.

“A mouthful of grass for your words.” He said, dropping it

You know I can’t reach there, and even if I did, lions don’t eat grass. Leo said, proudly displaying her strong muscles and opening her mouth to show strong canine teeth.

“So you plan to eat me after we escape?”

“But that is not a crime? Leo frowned.

She quickly jerked her right paw, but only managed to have a slight scratch on Zed’s leg before he quickly pulled back and galloped around his cage, laughing loudly. He took another mouthful of grass and walked with it up to where Leo stood, watching, waiting patiently.

The couple stood watching. Excited by the animals’ antics, they lowered their phones, decided to watch the unique scenario with their naked eyes. Slowly, the guy wrapped his arm around the girl’s waist. This time she did not resist.

Poet’s Journey on Stage.

Picture this.

You are a poet on stage, digging words from the depth of your soul, letting them out layer after layer, hitting new realities into the thinking dimensions of your audience. You pause for a while and scan a section of your audience. At first it doesn’t surprise you; maybe the guy looking down on his phone, fingers busy will be booted if he doesn’t reply to his girlfriend’s message immediately. You have been there too, and you understand the situation perfectly well. You move your eyes across the rest of the audience and notice two or three more guys huddled over their phones. One of them mumbles something to their neighbor. You try to catch what they are saying, maybe it is important, maybe it could have the answers to the many questions you are having now. But it is only a whisper, and you are no lip reader.

You try to raise your voice in order to have the attention of the distracted, but it becomes disheartening to watch them engage more in their illicit activities. At this point, you are about to turn away and concentrate on the audience that is willing to be fed, those who think you are worthy of their ears. That’s when you notice poet X, a big name in the industry, whispering to his neighbor. Your knees weaken, they wobble, but gravity refuses to pull you to the ground; it is not time for prayers, at least not yet. You are about to poop on yourself, but then you remember you have no diapers. Your funeral ought to be held here, were it not for your audience that comes to your rescue.

It encourages you with snaps. Their thumbs violently connect with other two fingers and sparks fires in your heart. The lion in you awakens and you remember who you are. You give your deserving audience what it deserves. It amazes you how the words come out, connecting with the thirsty audience. Soon you are through. You get a loud applause. The event organizer is smiling and that assures you of your fare home. Some guys give you a standing ovation, and you bow in appreciation. You are shocked to find two of the guys who were busy with their phones earlier now standing. Clapping. You smile and walk down the stage, but your soul pesters you with so many questions.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?????

These questions are not to be answered soon.

You walk down the stage after a great performance but your head hangs low.

“Did those guys pay more than the rest of the audience?” You ask yourself.

You decide to go sit next to the noisemakers. Maybe they might be having the answers.

“Awesome performance bro.” One of them turns and gives you a man hug, his phone still in his hands.

You are about to ask him why he wasn’t born with four legs and no hands to hug you. Or better still, without a brain to understand your words.

But the next poet is already on stage, and you don’t want to be a jackass to your fellow brother/sister. So you sit down and listen. The performance is awe-inspiring and your soul is blessed, questions forgotten. You go home a happy person.

But the devil is real guys. The devil is real.

You awaken early the next morning still in your boxers, face your image in a body length mirror, try to better your art for the next event. After a few rounds you remember to check on facebook, expecting lots of photos and congratulatory messages on the previous performance. A post from great Poet X is attracting many likes and comments. One look at it, and you freeze.

‘What is that thing they do on stage? Calling it spoken word? For who? For what? Mediocre!!! Mediocre art everywhere.’

Your comments come in torrents, wild punches from Pacquiao.

Which spoken word piece are you speaking about?

Why generalize?

Is it my piece?

Could you point out the mistakes?

Explain?

But all Mayweather big poet X does is hide behind the referees (fellow big names in the industry), avoiding, covering their faces, and going under the ropes, yet getting all the victory on their facebook posts.

“Is this what mentorship is all about?”

You wonder as you go back to the mirror, practice, this time adding some rhythmic punches that you plan to use next time you meet big poet X.

Later, you think of calling your nursery school teacher and connecting her to some people who might need lessons on how to nurture talents.

Big up to any poet who graces the stage, big or small, known and unknown, young or old. As Theodore Roosevelt put it:

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’