Proud Roots

cropped-img-20180613-wa000611.jpgSometimes, when I dream,
I wake up as nothing short of
A Proud African Woman.

But, I’ve always been short.

And I can’t paint my skin,
anymore than I can stop
myself from being human.

So, that leaves me just short of
consenting to pride,
because my lightness reminds
of times that had signs that said
“Europeans Only”

Even though my father was not born here
and arrived with nothing
except the will to explore,
and a soul so full of hard work,
that he broke off a piece and used it to make me,
Me.

Night Terrors

My family, is huge,
There are so many husbands and even more wives.
My dad had to build us a whole neighborhood,
Because of his family’s size.
We kids, are too many to count, though we’ve tried.
But before we finish counting, more kids have been born,
more kids have died.

There are times, when a hand full of us would go out,
just to shop, or to school, and bullets ended their lives,
but for the most part, our terrors, are more likely a job from inside.
You see, our family is too big to get on. And our names too easily divide.
Those named on dads side, start with W, and those named after mums, have their own letters.
From my mum, the boys are O and the girls are A, So they call my mum Mama O
Then there’s Mama L, Mama S, Mama K, and Mama M.
A long time ago, before our Mamas were born, all the families fought in a war.
They fought together, but when it was over, Dads family got the most.
And so, out of inequalities, a feud was started,
between those who did, and didn’t share in the spoils.

Our night terrors are nasty. Once, Mama, my mama had twins, named from dads side,
And they went over to our cousins to spend the night. They were only five.
In the night, our cousins did unspeakable things to little Winnie, on the floor by her bed side.
Then burnt both Winnie and William, in their room. They said the room had no use after they had spent the night.
Nine years ago, was the worst, all our houses became smoke
and blood, until, we were all told not to speak of it.
But in the night, these memories haunt, lips sealed, we see each other different.

The other day, we found toy tires, burning in the hall way.
Yes, we managed to walk around them. But the smoke, did well to remind
that burning and bleeding, are things that run in our family.
We are much more in danger, from within.
Than outside.

As She Should Be

Cucu and I would take trips,
To see, The Animal Orphanage,
“Nairobi is cold.” She would say to me.
Still, I would beg, for those bright red,
Red Devil ice lollies, that would paint my lips red.
We would watch lion cubs,
Stretch and stick out their tongues,
They looked like teddies.
 

Mama would take me to Forty Thieves,
There was this fallen tree on the beach,
We as kids, would run down,
sunny, sand dusted stairs to reach
and compete for who could climb it first,
and get to the branch, that thrust up, and out.
So we could swing from it,
Or stand on it and sing from it;
 

“I’m the King of the Castle,
You’re the dirty rascle!
Nyenyenye Boooooboooo!”
 

It’s ironic how, even then,
We stood atop fallen pieces of
mother earth, to pretend Lord
over each other.
 

I visited again, in my teens,
The tree, then sunk beneath
sand, so the castle branch
was so low, I could sit on it.
The stairs were buried too.
The last time I visited,
Just the tip of that swinging branch,
Peeked
At a Forty Thieves
that is now half the size.
The sea and sand having
Claimed back property.
 

‘Daddy took me snorkelling!
In Tiwi Beach!’
And we would see kaleidoscope
Coral reef, with uncountable multi-coloured fish
Darting between
Their rippled surfaces.
We visited again, him, my brother, my sister and I,
last year. All we could do was
watch out for sea urchins.
 

As adults, we clamber,
With the Kings of the earth
Pumping the most fumes above us,
No filter,
Streaming live threads and trends,
as we ‘forget’ not to litter.
Besides us, little footprints patter,
Licking lollies, and dropping
Wrappers.
 

My daughter is starting to walk.
I wonder,
How will I explain, hurricane,
Katrina to her, once it’s happened again
and again.
While we are yet to stop making the same mistakes?
 

I will tell my grand children,
Stories of Giants, who had
giant teeth, we called tusks,
Big enough to carry three children on.
They will laugh.
But I will not find it funny
Because although I’ll love to see them smile,
They will find my stories senile,
For dwelling on historical times,
When Rhinos existed in real life.
 

I will tell them about a fallen
tree, that by then, sits sunk and
salty, decomposing.
Possibly along with the Neem,
And taller trees, that hold up
Ladder bridges for the Colobus monkeys
Safe passage across Diani’s main street.
 

Our mother earth is not human,
Were she person, she would
Be buried already.
Under the weight of
her selfish children.
That said,
It is finite, what she can take.
While we errect gardenless mansions on her riverbeds
and look on benevolent, as
entire islands are under threat
of the clear indications
that we are pushing hard
for her boughs to break.
 

Truth be told, to be mother,
Is a thing of beauty.
We don’t have to make her
look haggard, then
fault
her continuity.
And there is hope, in here,
Everywhere I look.
 

If all the wold needs, is
For us to make the right decisions
In rooms like these.
Then we are here
To save the sea
From emissions,
To save the land
From the sea.
 

Because it should be more,
than a dream,
That our great great great
Grandchildren
Get to be
On an Earth, that is still
 

Beautiful.

As She Should Be.

 

The Letter By The Bed Says

I can find another smile to dive in.
I don’t need to just survive,
I should be thriving.

I’ve got so much to give,
and you name it ‘too much’.
You were there, to catch my flying kisses,
To partner in our flying gymnastics.
My too much is now static.
And, you’re chilled out, like that’s
how its supposed to be.

Well, I don’t feel like being
less, anymore.
I’m not perfect.
and neither are you.
But I don’t see the point, if we
don’t make make each other more.

So, Once Upon A Time, I may have called you
Home
But you left me in an empty cage.
Chained down while you roamed.
I’d never felt
So
Alone.

It may just be time for me
To be
All of my “Too much”

On my own.

 

Watch live performance.

 

 

And This, Today, I Swear To Be True.

Time, in its infinity,
Found the space for us
            To Face,
Each others Smiles,
To see each others truths.
 
In it we, finitely,
   entwine each others roots.
So, we met.
And birthed the clarity, that we
   could make a nest.
In which to stick our sticks
   together, and
Split our bets.

And that,
   Today,
I swear to be
            True.

Life, and its participants
may choose, as they choose,
And ultimately,
            I choose you.

You are proof, that we,
can work together, a testimony
            of sorts,

Like the fact that clay
   can make pot,
   with daylight,
is a blessing
            of sorts,
and on the days the sun
wont flinch, above
            cloudy brinks,
   We will light
each others way
no matter, what who thinks.
We will have laughter,
Our across the room winks,
Or more like knowing
glances, will paint a frame
   around reality.
            Meaning;
You, are what is real to me,
   and I to you.

And, that, Today,
            I swear
   To be
            True.

As a daughter, as a mother,
As a father, as a son,
We’ll outreach our hands,
in search of each others,
And
reach back, when
   the time comes.
What I’m saying is,
   I’d like to spend,
the rest of my life, with You.

And this,
            Today,
   I swear
            to be true.

Me, Beautiful?

Beautiful is in the curves,

the lines, that spell my name,

On a good day.

 

Is in the corners of the lips that

fall, even though they know

not to speak all.

 

Is in the eyes that face the

sun, and cameras’ flash,

Without flinching, without

blinking out the resilience

that allows for bravity.

 

Beauty is in aknowledging

the ugly.

In knowing that even that

can not define me.

In loving , Only

for the sake of love.

 

Beauty is in the puffy eyed

deep exhale of breath that

states, that the cry is over.

 

Beauty is the island of

space, in which I find

my peace of mind.

Stagger my pace.

And find the grace,

To pose,

Expose myself, as an existant entity.

A victorious refrain from lifes general vulnerabilities.

 

Because it’s only for moments

that we can break from this

race.

 

Beautiful is framed honestly.

Even when I don’t know it,

Beautiful is me.

 

Growing Up. Part 2. Hair and Love

Acceptance, and especially self acceptance can be hard to come by. More often than not, people will point out things that differentiate you from them. As you get older, it becomes easier to stand by your own principles and decisions. The full list of ways that I feel blessed to have grown up is:

1. Conversation

2. Patience

3. Hair

4. Love

5. Poetry

This is a continuation of the last uploaded post. Here are two more ways in which, I’m happy to be a grown up.

Hair

Like most girls, life hands me many circumstances where people feel obligated to tell me about my hair. Over the years, there have been statements which have been repeated over and over again, such that, when someone begins the statement/question I often feel like I can finish it for them.

  • “It’s so long
  • Why did you cut it!?
  • It’s so soft
  • This soft hair can’t shika braids
  • This soft hair can’t shika dreads
  • Haiya! What have you done to your hair! The way you had nice hair!
  • Kama ningepewa hii nwele…
  • Kama ningepewa hii nwele singe…
  • Wa! Enyewe hii nwele ni chache
  • Kumbe hii nwele nikidogo hivyo
  • If I had your hair…”

When I was in Year eight, the boys in my class put some money together to buy me a comb. It was yellow plastic, and came with a note that said something like:

PLEASE! Use this. You need it!‘ Scribbled messily across the corner of a torn exercise book page.

Its one of those things about how children can be cruel. My hair, was of course taken care of. I lived, at the time, in a house full of women that would never have let me go to school without first combing and styling my hair neatly. There were in fact, four generations of us, me being the youngest. There was my Mum, her Mum (my Cucu, who I call Mummy) and her Mum (my Maitu or great grandmother) and of course me.

The trouble with my hair, is that it has its own ideas about what it wants to do.

In early high school, I would try as much as possible, to style it in the ‘cool’ styles that my classmates had. My Mum never let me relax my hair, thankfully, as I now know, it would in fact have fallen out. The trouble was, what looked like a fringe in the mirror in the morning when wet, became a fuzzy erect crest by 10:00 am. Even if I wasn’t trying to have a fringe, the breakage in my hairline (caused by other ‘cool’ hairstyles like braids and flat ironing), would become something like a hallow, by latest lunch time, be lopsidedly standing around my forehead as though attempting to escape entirely.

When I was sixteen I began twisting my hair. Undoing and re-twisting, until I had a full head of locks. I didn’t need to go and sit under driers, my hair took to locking as though that’s what it was made for. I did them myself, although my front locks were slim and my back locks were thick, I loved my locks, and can happily say, that for the entire time, I never once had to visit a salon.

After two years however, I dearly missed the feeling of a brush or comb on my scalp. I had finished my IB diploma, knew that I would soon have to start work. I chose to take out my locks. My hair has allot of static, so I found, inside the thicker locks I had managed to collect allot of lint (blanketi). I wondered if that would contribute to weight in any way. I resolved, that I was going to do slimmer dreads, if I was to dread my hair again. Its a tricky balance though, because I prefer to do my own hair, the slimmer the dreads, the more time that will take.

Today, I do believe I’ve found a fun balance. My hair is partly shaved, partly sister locked and partially natural and short. I don’t think I would ever have had the guts to do this when I was younger. The age I am at, my principles on the fluidity of culture  allow me to be able to make unusual choices about my hair and know that I can stand by those decisions. I gave up on trying to look like other people, which is the most enormous weight off my shoulders. I love the fact that I finally know how it feels to have my hair really really short (Amazing!). I love my handful of of locks, that I can put pendants in and hear them jingle instead of earings. I can still put a brush through the rest of it.

I wasn’t born knowing what I wanted to do with my hair nor would I have had the guts to do anything I wanted to, just a few years back. So, thirty here I come, I love being a big girl!

Love

My first love, was in kindergarten. He was six months younger than me. To my classmates, that was an unacceptable age gap. He didn’t seem to mind, but there was another girl who liked him, and was an acceptable six months younger than him. In the end, peer pressure won the day, and she wound up being his girlfriend. This role, entailed holding hands, and eating break together.

I have always been prone to crushes. My teenage years featured the greatest quantity of love poems to date.

I have never had particularly good hand or foot to eye coordination. When I was eight, none of the girls wanted me on their hopscotch team. I would only be allowed to play, in the single player rounds of the game and even then, I served soley as the object of ridicule.

After many attempts to fit in with the girls, I conceded and would instead play ‘catch and catch’ with the boys. As a result, they stopped thinking of me as a girl. My great crush of that age was called Naheem. He had hair that fell around his face and reached his ears like Aaron Carter (I thought). He had a girlfriend though, and she was the prettiest girl in the school. I knew I didn’t stand a chance, and was a peace with that fact. To my mind, he was the cutest boy, and so it only made sense that he should be with the prettiest girl. For the sake of this blog, lets call her Cathy.

One day, in the corridor on the way to art class, Cathy stopped me to say, “Raya, I know you like Naheem and I just wanted to tell you that I don’t care. You can have him.”

Her declaration startled me. No one else was supposed to know. I had only told one person, my best friend. The trouble was, my best friend, had another best friend, who happened to be the biggest gossip in the class. I really didn’t know what to say to her, I hadn’t wanted them to break up, nor did I think I would stand a chance anyway. Eloquence often deserts me, just  when I need it the most.

At break time, Naheem walked up to me, his fists were folded into tiny balls. He accused me of intentionally making Cathy break up with him. He then proceeded to punch me in the face and give me my very first (and thankfully, only ever) black eye.

I remember crying profusely in the toilet. I remember vividly a revolting lump of red achari in the corner of the cement cubicle. I love achari, its always been one of my favorite things, but that tiny heap, would never have enticed me to put it in my mouth. The irony dawned on me some years later.

I wasn’t crying because of the pain in my eye, which would continue to tear until the next day. I was a tom boy, so a week would not have passed without me having some kind of injury, I was used to physical pain. I cried because I thought of Naheem as a friend and was heart broken that he could think so lowly of me.

Love takes many forms. I have often reprimanded myself for forgiving too easily and trusting too fast. Many a time, in my life, I’ve thrown emotional caution to the wind in the name of love.

Growing up has taught me two vital things about love. One is, it is a good idea to keep your eyes open. To love what is there, and not what you think could be. Two, is that it is OK to be a loving person. Loving truly, comes with giving truly, and that giving is a gift in itself.

I love the acceptance that comes with love.