usonga

My father always bought me meat when he was drunk and stumbled home and gave it to my mother to cook.

One day in Loresho my father carried his grief in his palms, stumbled into the living room and gave it to the women and he said mon, ywaguru, women, cry.

I will write about it one day.

Today, however, begging the jiko to stay up with me, I stare at the paper the cook left on your grass, grass on which leaves were classified as dirt, grass that once harboured the pride of a working woman with a personal hairdresser, grass that always made it clear how fortunate anybody was that it agreed to play mattress for afternoon naps.

And I think how love is a difficult thing to translate; that is the way to forgive teachers who made everyone laugh at us because our people mourn as if in theatre.

Maybe some of us are unable to access grief except through the poetry of others.

Like:

Coke madiaba okan madhre kendo.

Like:

Nyaminwa ma ne wa thoth kodo,

Nyaminwa ma nyakawach ga adiera,

Nyaminwa ma ka ne ber to ber to ka ne rach to rach.

Like:

An to aonge wach. Weauru.

Like.

Tho oknyal chietho. Two emichietho.

Like:

Ero wathi rumo.

Today, the road to your home feels like it is being made in real time by a child who has pinched a piece of brown plasticine and is rolling it on a green table and singing a song everybody knows but nobody remembers from where. As her plasticine grows longer and longer and longer, the road grows longer and longer and longer, as if for it too, the anticipation for your grass has been replaced by the fear of coming face to face with the reality of your no-longer-ness.

I know you are gone because for a moment, I thought myself in a 3D movie theatre as I watched the bottle you-know-who threw diving as if in slow motion onto your grass and if there is anything that could have made you get up, it would be this.

Sadness has never found me but I am also very good at running so far ahead of it that it is nightfall and the road is impossible to tell apart from the farm and the fireflies are drunk dancing to the funeral night party songs only they can hear from this far away and there is an infant lake here somewhere and today is my last chance to find it and sadness has forgotten that it was me he was looking for.

My father- he declares war on my silence but this thing- the way it eats everyone who left my womb and they stay quiet makes me think that woven into my bones is a computer code running into eternity that commands my being to be mute.

 

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/26822808 Thanks.

 

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malindi

He also knew how the sea was with certain people, how it needed them and they it.- Dragonfly Sea, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.

You have to tell yourself I’m proud of you over and over again until you believe it.

Some good ways to do that are:

Surviving a week in South Korea where a woman gives you an 11.27a.m. deadline and then asking the Malindi bus conductor what time you expect to arrive and he says Ni Mungu tu ndiye anajua Madame.

Sitting in the hot water pooled between the Indian Ocean and the Sabaki, alone for as far as you can see, hugging your knees to your chest, looking at all the blues the ocean manages to make beautiful, saying I love you, I’m happy for you, I’m proud of you.

Riding on a bajaji on the highway from Malindi to Mambrui, stealing glances at the impossible beauty of Kingi’s eyelashes through the side mirror, letting the wind attempt to apologize to your nyama choma back for what the sunshine did.

Saving the purple bougainvillea from the water over and over again until you realize that it likes that electricity generated from having so much life that death’s closeness is hidden.

Finding a child whose soul comes out of her body with the same force the waves used to break against the cliff and splash onto us. Watching the zebra and lion and cheetah blush from her affection.

Never getting enough of your shadow as a star-shaped heartbeat drifting on the swimming pool floor.

Cold passion juice with the seeds still in it, pasta, seafood, noting all the places with the white waves and waves and the everythingness where Kingi claims the ocean cannot swallow you. In the hypnosis, letting Uwem Akpan write his way into your life, first with the caution one does new people on first dates, then with the abandon one does friends of friends with whom it just has to work, I guess. (He writes: “Selling your child or nephew could be more difficult than selling other kids….”)

Hashim says (and Hashim never lies) that the blue which the shakwe bird keeps flaunting is from when he steals the water’s fish and the water tattoos him in return. I want my home to be fierce when I’m taken away from it.

I feel like I belong on a bookmark with a deep quote when I seat on the plank outside my bedroom window and read under the moonlight with the clouds above me and the oceans and the town’s lights in the distance seducing my eyes.

I waved at the cat with the shiny black fur and the glassy green eyes. It followed me home.

The water came for me again. I looked My Life in the face and she was a beauty. Water likes to break the lock on the door of My Life, walk in while dangling his keys, whistle and sway his stomach left to right before telling me that I will always belong to him. This time My Life told him that’s ok and then said but are you sure and for the first time Water did not leave a stench only I could smell when he left.

If that lobster- which looked like those genius Nigerian artists had found it and painted it orange and that it now belonged only on a throne- had been my last meal, there would have been dignity in my death.

You- you learned to lure my spirit back from the Grim Reaper long before you learned to claim my body back in the same way.

Akwaeke Emezi said that they have an image of what it is they want in life that helps them go through the little tasks that can feel annoying. For me, that is a tie between the feeling of sitting at the top of the boat in the middle of the ocean listening to Afrobeats and that of standing on a windy cliff and gulping the view of the ocean with greed but never finishing it.

When numbers loved me I found that there were two ways to calculate a truth. The first is by making logical step by step efforts to do so. The second is by starting from the result and working backwards. I’m glad that the result for us is happiness even if I do not yet know the steps that led to it.

 

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/malindi-26357664 Thanks.

seoul

This is what I think about when I make it to the tower at the top of the world while I shake my head right to left and rub my nose on the blue shawl I am glad I “borrowed” from the airline.

I say I love you to myself over and over again like a prayer.

Every time I say my own name I remember her and I think about sadnesses that are so fat they are unable to go through the vessels of the heart except in shrunken unrecognizable pieces of their former selves.

I say maybe there are other ways to live, maybe I should stand at the edge of all this and jump down and see what happens when instead of planning descent, you let the things that want to catch you do so and lay in their embrace for as long as your welcome lasts.

I realise the transparent glass box I rode to the top of this mountain did not scare me because no action was required from me for it to stay afloat, unlike the day that I capsized off the canoe after everyone promised nothing wrong could happen. Water has always wanted me in that jealous way of smoky-eyed lovers that are hiding darkness underneath their skin.

I have missed cities where the night does not mean that you must rock your soul in your palms like a baby, shush it, shut the door and tell your soul locking it indoors is what’s best as you sing Lala mtoto lala.

I buy a lovers’ padlock for half the price of stories I sell and write my own name on it and then I lock it onto the terrace’s fence, close to one that has come undone that says, “In this moment, life is good for Stephen.”

This is what the telescope whispers to my eyes: what defiance it is to think yourself special in a city that can blink another you into existence if it feels like it.

I summon an eight-year old version of me and she comes in the form of a hologram thumbing through magazines like Msafiri and the Marriott my father brought home and I tell her I can’t believe we made it.

This sorcerer child had a vision of the woman god made from me exactly as she came to me in real life six years ago, and that’s why when I tell my soul it’s just us now, she looks back at me like there may be a lie in there but won’t say anything about it no matter how much I beg her.

She said I belonged to her and I grew into a dragon and breathed out red-orange fire and roared Never. There are ways to be beautiful without being one.

I never realize how much people love me until I  stop seeking them and they start seeking me, like someone keeps hitting Kickback during poker.

You- you come to me every time I touch a pen but never actually leak out into the ink, like a permanent need to clear my throat.

That one time you let my ink find you it came out beautiful like the henna that woman at Mombasa Beach printed on my back.

You’re right to be careful. My fingers- they have thought themselves god and written worlds into existence before.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/seoul-26120001 Thanks.

 

turkana

I always thought that hopping onto a Land Cruiser was cool but Turkana taught me that if you are of a certain height hopping is the only way to get onto a Land Cruiser. Driving at 100km/h on rough road for two hours in a convoy led and trailed by security personnel clad in camo into a semi desert felt like a movie, like what happens after two blonde haired gangs in Texas comprising men who look exactly the same have a shootout and one group drives off. A strange fact about semi deserts is that no matter what ills you read about them in Geography textbooks they look stunning. Imagine it: sand, sunshine, vegetation the colour of glowing charcoal, shrubs, palm-looking trees on the banks of absent seasonal rivers, hills and large large tracts of nothing else.  A wonderful discovery is fish comes out of Lake Turkana already seasoned by God. You need to be a really bad cook (me) to mess tilapia up in general, but messing up Lake Turkana fish would require a superpower, and I feel if you have super powers you should put them into something useful instead of ruining fish. On a different note, in my culture, you are not allowed to actively demolish someone’s house when they die, but you are not allowed to refurbish and maintain it either. It needs to come down on its own. I have been thinking about this because sometimes when I go to places managed by the National Museums of Kenya, I wonder if my culture inspired their values. The house in which the Kapenguria 6 were detained during their stay in Lodwar looks like something forgotten.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/24977370. Thanks

kereita

cw: mental unwellness

In many ways, Kereita is indeed God flexing. With little research, and with myself on a petri dish, I can come up with scientific proof that forests are therapeutic. A tree can approach your soul, hold its neck and breathe into the back of its ear until your soul sighs, lets go of its burdens and collapses onto the tree’s shoulders.

Unfortunately, on this visit to Kereita, I had an anxiety attack which debilitated me. It had been a while since I got that wired for that long and I had started to trust that I could once again seduce the universe with my laughter and leap into it and that it would catch me very time.

How do you come from feeling like your spirits are as high as those bodies on a zipline and then feel like they are down in the valley below within 2 seconds?

It felt like every cell in my brain was battling another using the bow and arrow I was learning to work in archery. Even when the symptoms were screaming, I beat myself up for being weak not sick and for missing out because of it.

To blame you rather than itself is in part the nature of this lonely illness, a demon invisible sometimes even to its unwilling captor. In part, however, blaming yourself is a consequence of the fact that you are in more active control of your treatment than with other illnesses. When you are in charge of your wellbeing through constant yoga and positive affirmations and deep breaths, then an attack that overwhelms you feels like personal failure. As you fight and fight and fight, it is difficult to know when to look your armed brain cells in the eye, put your own bow and arrow down, raise your hands in surrender and ride the attack.

What I did ride was a horse which was good to me this time. I joke about how as a grownup I understand the darkness that drove people in rock music videos we watched with Ethel in high school on Sundays to wear black lipstick. I think when I got on Mzungu and pushed him faster and faster, it felt very dangerous but I finally understood the obsession seemingly disturbed black-leather-jacketed 20-somethings in music videos had with speeding motorbikes. I made a friend though, who got me a beautiful blue stone, and if that is all I got from the day, then it is sufficient.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support my work: https://www.patreon.com/posts/24465446. Thanks 🙂

castle

There may be no God, but the world has little heavens. Castle Lodge is the kind of place that God would reserve for only his favourite people. There is not a moment you are more aware of this than when you are riding uphill on a horse onto a grassy clearing which overlooks a rich forest. Butterflies that cleared surrounding leaves as larvae and left them looking like a sieve scatter in the mischievous way of children who know they have done something wrong but are not apologetic. For background music, birds sing like you imagine they do in poems and a waterfall hums as every moment new waters, only the ones at the very top, win the privilege of being kissed by the sun. Above the forest, sun beams escape through holes in the clouds which glow as if they are hiding a secret. Saladin, the horse, sensed earlier that I am a timid person and stopped following my orders, but needs no convincing to ride into this beauty. My therapist said that while abuse is never the victim’s fault, manipulative people can sense a timid energy, which is partly why some women are repeatedly victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. When Saladin refuses to listen to me, I go into my brain in that way that is difficult to escape. The waterfall is mesmerising, because when I stare at it for long and then look at the world, the trees and the rocks and the soil shift as if in a collective Mexican wave. I like it- that the earth too in its perfection can harbor an eerie darkness. A brain that is always sprinting and always glancing behind to scan for enemies is a difficult thing to live in, but when you have some money, a waterfall and a dear friend there are ways to run away even from your brain.

*Psst I am soft launching a Patreon for paying readers, in which I will duplicate okasungora pieces (because open access). If you are capable, sign up to support me: https://www.patreon.com/posts/castle-23971360 . Thanks 🙂

skipping rope

Photograph by Anna Wane: https://annakwane.com/

Image for skipping rope

Brian loved to run everyday. I was never sure from what demons until he ran right out of my life.

I skip rope. Only. In the same place. I skip until all of my demons melt and evaporate from my mind. The first time it worked I thought it was genius and almost called the doctor to tell her thank you but her services were no longer needed and that I always knew the nights I felt my mind waking up, stretching, yawning, packing its bags and starting to leave me were a lie.

I feel like my mind is rushing fast towards a cliff and jumping and then changing its mind and jumping back onto the cliff and laughing at me and telling me to stop being so uptight.

Brian got it right. Beat me at life again. He knew how to run. At least.

I just jump here. On the spot. And this rope it switches between a smile emoticon and a sad face emoticon. Taunting me.

I knew it was coming too- the day that I would drag myself out of bed, remove my work clothes, convince myself to pick the rope up, put on Jane the Virgin so that I do not have to listen to myself and skip and still the lonely sadness does not molt from my skin.

The first day it happens I tell Brian. I don’t know that I’m telling him but I’m seated next to him and my mind is on a surgical table between us and a mind is not nakedness that you should cover it with leaves in a garden.

The second day I tell my other half, but it aches her. She limps like a wounded bird to a nest and I feel guilty for sending her there. The next time she comes looking for me I only come out if I have scooped sunshine and used it to rouge my cheeks.

The third day I tell my sculpture. Her arms are longer than her body and she reaches out and hugs me and her arms coil many times around my torso. And it is no longer possible for me to fall down like a series of connected sausages. I love her for it. And I am scared of her love for it. I decide that her limbs are long so they’re thin so they’re fragile and the weight of my demons will break them but not give them the dignity of a complete death and the demons will look at her broken and laugh without remorse. So I pack my bags in stealth the way my mind and Brian taught me. The demons laugh at me because they think I can’t leave. When I do it shuts them up but silence is also revenge. I can’t feel anything and I almost seek them out but I love the silence even if it tastes like cassava but people see me and they ask after my demons while sighing too much. How are they doing. What happened to them. Oh they moved. But they were so funny. Can you imagine?

The fourth day I keep still even though everything inside me is trembling and then I change my mind and tell the 18 dolls queued at the hudson and then I change my mind and I stay quiet and you won’t believe it but I get pregnant and it’s a round ball that makes me unable to see my feet except my toes and I give birth to exactly myself and I try to fool everyone that finally here is my Apiyo whom you’ve been looking for but they know that it is exactly me again. And can you imagine I gave birth to myself? I now understand why mothers confuse themselves for God. I rock back and forth. I could be god. I could be god. I could be god.

The fifth day I tell two flowers. They make their stems rigid and they let me lie down on their petals.

The sixth day I don’t tell anyone. But it doesn’t feel powerful like the drunkenness from giving birth to yourself.

I am scared that the seventh day is my last chance so I keep waking up on the sixth day.