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longer and longer, the road grows longer and longer and longer, as if for it too, the anticipation for your grass has been replaced by the fear of coming face to face with the reality of your no-longer-ness.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.

 

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 🙂