All images by Rosie Olang
The New Romantics
No one forced you to stand in those queues.
You did it yourself.
You were brothers on those queues, you were sisters on those queues, and mothers, and fathers, sons and daughters.
You queued to vote.
There you were in the company of strangers with joy leaping out of your throat and wrapping itself around everybody. Your wide open mouth discharged flocks of twittering sunbirds ready to feast on the fragrant nectar of your laughter.
You forgot the lesson your mother taught you, never open your heart to strangers. Now see; these strangers are as familiar as family.
The sun was hot, on the day you went to throw your hope away, on some politician destined to break your heart.
But to look at you, on that hot day, anyone could be forgiven for thinking you believed your vote would be counted.
Even though they saw you standing in long queues with your face shining like the sun;
You looked like a celestial being, Sauti Sol maybe, or the Archangel Gabriel;
The owners of the queue yawned, took your vote, crumpled it and threw it into the toilet. Because, they said, that is where it belonged.
Along with your dreams.
After all, they are the leaders.
They get to decide who wins and who loses.
They disposed of your vote, careless.
No need for elaborate Machiavellian schemes of subterfuge.
Let your latest folly be a lesson to all those other new romantics across the continent.
And with this casual gesture, they killed your dreams,
Without considering how you would live, When all you had to live on was an admonishment.
Accept and move on.
When all you had to live on was a rebuke. Spoken in the darkening tones of a coming thunderstorm.
Accept and move on.
They made you run and hide.
Accept and move on.
And you accepted and you moved on, again.
This time, you hid your hope. You hid it until your tongue was red and raw. So now you walk around with red roses popping out of your face. Red roses bloom, and then fall limp and dead onto the ground.
This time, when you open your mouth a crowd of raucous crows shriek out of your throat so loud your words startle the air around you.
You never knew despair came with so much noise.
Or, that it is your own hope you should fear when it has nowhere to go. It will sink you, like an African Migrant’s body in the Mediterranean Sea. (And you have noticed, no African leader bothers to send one word of regret.)
Maybe, this time they hope to kill your hope dead.
Maybe this is the little miracle they are looking for; your leaders.
But they don’t know you.
They don’t remember it is you who fatted them with power.
The Beginning of Another Five Years
The beginning of another five years found you spring cleaning, after which you closed your heart, locked it up with a small metal key. You breathed your desires into four clear glass jars, and shut them away inside a darkened room. For another 5 years. Because, you could not bear to look daily into a face smeared with the blood of red roses.
Pendo, Where does Love Go to Die?
When a baby girl was born after a wait of five long years, her mother and father sighed in relief and named her Pendo.
But little did they know, just a scant six months later, the miracle God gave them,
was destined to be snatched away on a dark night, by a man wielding a rungu.
And so, Pendo, the miracle ended.
I want to get away from this place,
retreat, give up this place that only speaks to me with the foul mouth of a beast.
It spews barbed obscenities at me.
Every morning I wake up to find my insides curdled like six-day-old-milk.
I am surprised to find I’m still alive,
Did they not kill my children as I slept?
I want to get away from this place, get away from the bitterness blooming in my chest. Tight, clenched, like a fist. I can see it wrapped around my soul, squeezing my humanity out of me in round foul globules. I walk around taut, enraged, ready to go off, like a grenade; blow the legs off the unsuspecting.
I want to retreat, go home, home to a clean, green, green land, where laughter beckons me, along with the sun, along with the rain.
With open arms it pulls me into its warm expansive embrace and whispers in my ear.
Beloved. But, where have you been? Oh how I missed you.
About the Poet:
Sitawa Namwalie is a Kenyan poet, playwright, writer and performer who discovered her poetic gift in 2007 and by 2008 staged her first dramatized poetry show “Cut off My Tongue” in Nairobi. In 2009, her first book of poetry, “Cut off My Tongue,” was published. “Cut off my Tongue” was invited to the UK’s prestigious Hay Festival in the UK in 2009. In 2010 “Cut off my Tongue” was selected by the Sundance Theatre Lab in the first East African Sundance Lab held on Manda Island. Sitawa has written and performed several dramatized poetry performances including, “Homecoming” (2011) and “Silence is a Woman”, which won Kenya’s Sanaa Theatre Awards for Best Spoken Word and Poetry for her show of dramatized poetry. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies and publications including; “Reflections: An Anthology of New Work by African Women Poets”. Anthonia C. Kalu, Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi, and Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, editors 2013. In November 2014 Sitawa staged a reading of her first play “Black Maria on Koinange Street” at the Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF) in November 2014 and at the Pen International Festival in New York City in 2015. In June 2017, her second play “Room of Lost Names” premiered in Nairobi. The play had earlier premiered at the Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF) in November 2015 and was performed at the second Ubumuntu Arts Festival in July 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Sitawa currently earns a living working as an international consultant and is based in Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi and a Master of Arts degree in Environment, Society and Technology from Clark University in Massachusetts, USA. Sitawa has achieved excellence in many areas of life, including representing Kenya in tennis and hockey in her youth.
Enkare Review’s second issue will be released on 11/02/2018