closing time

I loved you when our love was  blessed

I love you now there’s nothing left

but sorrow and a sense of overtime”– Leonard Cohen singing Closing Time


Before sitting down to write this I brewed me a cup of coffee and sat down at the entrance of my house to overlook my view for the last time. Blaring from my speakers was a mix of the Bobs- Marley and Dylan, and Leonard Cohen. A randomised playlist so I couldn’t know what was coming next. Just as I was finishing up the cup of coffee the song closing time came on, whose lyrics were apt. Sometimes there’s a runner running the random things.


I’ve been kicked out of where I stay.


It’s not just me though. We’ve all been kicked out. The landlord wants to renovate, everyone I tell this hears speech marks around the word. “You’re sure he’s not selling?” Look though, I don’t know. I have no idea. All I know is I was just renting and now the owner has asked for it back. This will happen with this home  we call life too and when it does we can rage against the dying of the light. Then when the light turns to night rage no more.


Despite any flippancy that may fall off the previous paragraph have no doubt that I loved this place. Loved it. Loved it so much that it’s the first house I remember dreaming about since my childhood home. The first place I have lived in by myself that holds that intangible element that makes it sound, turns the noise of the air into music, that special magic that some places just have.


It’s this compound in Nairobi West that’s rumoured to have belonged to one of Kenyatta’s ministers. Not the one we have right now the one we had after uhuru (and we should all hope that in three decades this sentence won’t be rendered ambiguous by current events.) The set-up of the place brings to mind the compound that Don Corleone retired to with his family when all the mafia wars were extracting too high a price.


There’s 10 dwelling units here. Once you enter the gate there’s a parking lot long enough to hold maybe 8 cars side to side. Then there’s the main structure. This contains 6 houses on 2 stories. The upstairs houses are 2 balconied constructions. There’s bathtubs in the bathrooms and 3 rooms each in those main houses. To the back there’s a two room place where the watchmen live, next to this a long dwelling place, never been inside this. Next to it is a standalone bedsitter, then there’s the structure I live in.


It’s a two-story building, one-bedroomed houses stacked on top of another. It’s perfectly rectangular and shares a wall with Ciderwood Hotel on Gandhi Avenue. It’s just big enough for me. It fits everything I have perfectly. It’s a contained place, is how I feel about it. The sun rises from the windows to where my bed is faced. This means on sunny Sundays I get a show since I don’t have curtains but shears. Even in the dark of electric light they glimmer with patterns of flower and circles and these concentric lines leading away from the flowers and circles. When I look at it just right it looks like Salvador Dali paintings of a five-limbed creature with suns for hands and planets for legs. As the sun rises it plays on this glimmering and shimmering. The windows are slightly open so that the shears are set a-flutter. And when they flutter it looks how a heart feels when it does this in the presence of the most beautiful person you know, it’s not even beauty that sets that feeling off in the heart, I think it’s being able to tear down the barriers between you and that person so that the God in you can see the God in her and release tears of boundless love at the reunion. The fluttering is accompanied by shots of light in colours purple and maroon, textures obsidian and absurd, moments fleeting and ephemeral.


I’m a second floor denizen so to come to my house I have to go up this flight of stairs, a small zig-zag, not enough to put the breath out of even the fattest of my friends or relatives. We get to the door and there’s a little space just before the door. There’s a wall here too, it’s just tall enough for me to rest my ashtray on. There’s a slight elevation before you enter the house, this means that I can sit on this porch cross-legged and look out at Nairobi West.


The view  to the immediate right is one of the Ciderwood parking lot which also serves as its smoking zone. I wave at the regulars when I come out here for a smoke. I see some on random mornings as I’m polishing my shoes and shout conversations over the wall, usually about the evil nature of the souls of lawyers. On very occasional mornings the dregs of a fight can be heard. Shouting and screaming. There’s usually a woman involved and insinuations of slutty behaviour, this is usually answered with the assurance that, no your mother is a slut who else could have slept with such a man as sired you?


And I loved you for your beauty

but that doesn’t make a fool of me

you were in it for your beauty too


There’s a blockage of electric lines and then a tree with bare branches. Sometimes birds come to perch here. In fact there’s a bird’s nest right in my neighbour’s roof. I remember listening to Bob Marley sing “Three Little Birds” as I stood there looking at the 2 birds that live in the nest and hoping a third would show up to chirp me into serendipity. It happened. Those two birds broke up though just the other day. I saw the fight happen, I saw one push and muscle the other until it flew off in indignation. Ciderwood has a resident cat, or it’s roof does. It’s gold and white and had a cute little kitten the other day. It was tiny and an exact replica. I got to see the coldness with which these animals treat even their kin. Hanging on the tree in the distance has been a Jubilee flag. The flag flew tall and clean for months. Recently it’s been becoming ragged and dirty. The promise of what it could be even to those who believe in the endurance of such symbols has faded and will soon be nothing but strips and a rag on a tree.


Then there’s the view of the sky. I’ve stood and sat watching the sun ignite it in all the famous colours of indigo and lavender. Seen birds fly across my view-path. Solitary birds out for a soar. Groups of birds flying in a v pattern. A profusion of birds that looked like a whirlwind, there were dozens of them and they were flying upwards in circles, and wherever they were being produced from it seemed like it was by an angel with a bubble machine. They weren’t ending and their flight patterns were so intricate that I wondered once again what the birds are up to on earth. It seemed obvious it was no small thing.


At night I can see the stars as well as you can from Nairobi but the real gift of this place has been the sighting of the moon. I saw the blood moon from right there. The most recent moon I’ve seen was September’s full moon. When you can see this thing without cloud cover it feels like it’s giving you health, the whiteness with which it shines must purify. When the clouds cover it though there’s battle in dream. The gravity it exerts can turn them wispy, change their shapes so it looks like a dog with a bright eye in its face. Then you look again and the moon  has scuttled everything so now it looks like the remains of a shuttle taking off, then you look again and all you see is health.

And the moon is swimming naked

and the summer night is fragrant

with a mighty expectation of relief


My world has been a universe of things that I’ll never do again.


Added to this my neighbours have been moving out. The one whose house is overhang by the bird’s nest left at the beginning of last month and within 2 days I realised that somebody in that house had been cleaning up birdshit for the entire duration of my stay as splatter of white started dotting the concrete.


My neighbours left one by one and there was a mass exodus last weekend leaving just two of us in the compound. I wanted to move on a Friday, also so I could see the emptiness. The lights that shine in the compound don’t anymore. The windows have no curtains. There are no sounds of life anymore. It looks shuttered already, it looks derelict immediately. The clothes-hanging area seems to have  a wind blowing through it and this wind sounds forlorn. It stirs nothing as it blows except for my memories of what used to be. The only light that shines is mine. The only sound playing is mine. The whole place is mine and it feels empty. Extremely empty. The darkness assumes a physical force and a menacing character.


“And the place is dead as heaven on a Saturday night”


Water is running out, I haven’t had any in my pipes for 10 days now and all I have is 2 days before I leave. My stores and stocks are depleted but they needed to be so I could move all these bottles but I miss water. When I first moved here there was a family downstairs. They had this little girl maybe three years old and we became friends. She’d light up when she saw me and get me to throw her up and down. She’d enter my house and ask for discarded items that she could play with. She’d write with chalk on the walls. Once she plucked me a flower. They moved about nine months ago but she was my favourite neighbour. I still remember her clear now, this was my favourite house and I really hope I’ll still be able to remember it clear, and hold it dear for a long, long time.


I also felt a love in this house that was intense and true and that ended like some novel whose last paragraphs would have left me walking around shell-shocked. The seeming inevitability of endings once we look back at them has the effect of giving meaning to every little thing that happened. It can make you see the seeds of destruction in the germination of everything. A good ending can make everything seem almost perfect, it can turn it into those ruins of castles that are so beautiful to look at. What we are seeing is decay and the reminder of death but what we are feeling is beauty and the endurance of love, the strength of faith.


and i lift my glass to the awful truth

which you can’t reveal to the ears of youth

except to say it wasn’t worth a dime

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Why I brought back Moi Day

Last year I filed a case in Court questioning the government’s decision to stop having Moi Day celebrated as a public holiday. The case was prosecuted and, in a judgement, delivered on 9th November, 2017 Justice Odunga declared that the 10th of October is in fact a public holiday and should be observed as such.


Legend has it that the month of August has 31 days because Caesar Augustus wanted his month to be equal in length to Julius Caesar’s. Fast forward to 1989, leave the empire of Rome for the nation of Kenya and history repeats itself.


The second President of the Republic has a day named after him and declared a public holiday just like the first President of the Republic did. A look around Kenya and her institutions are a testament to the vanity of our first two presidents. History didn’t repeat itself once, echoes of the game of the Caesars can be found in Kenyatta and Moi Avenue, Kenyatta and Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport, and for a long time on the faces of the currency.


In an attempt to reach for some measure of immortality the two men stamped their names across the country in its various institutions, made themselves felt temporally by dedicating days, and insinuated themselves into every monetary transaction. The need for legacy that beats in the hearts of men who have achieved positions of power finds its expression in many ways, for these two one way was the name game. Yet roads become potholed, currency is worn through, statues decay and crumble, and the only constant in the world is the vanishing of monuments.  Periods of power are eventually looked at with the clear eyes of history, investigations into tyranny are carried out, and presidents are finally judged for what they did and not for what they named.


The first sparks of that judgement on President Moi began with the overwhelming rejection of his choice of successor and has been cemented in the fact that for people born after 1985 the refrain to the song “yote yawezekana” is “bila Moi.” The gospel roots of the song are more felt than known and most people below the age of 33 would be hard-pressed to state any alternative ending to the chorus.


Yet, Moi Day was still celebrated after the departure of President Moi. It was faithfully observed as a public holiday for the next 8 years. In 2010 the current constitution of Kenya was promulgated, a document so encompassing that it provided for the definition of and dates of national days renaming Kenyatta Day as Mashujaa day but making no statement on Moi Day. Within the constitution is the proviso that all laws existing before its promulgation will continue to have an effect as long as they don’t contradict the constitution. One of these laws is the Public Holidays Act that parliament amended during Moi’s time to give him his day. An act that recognizes Moi Day not as a National Day but as a public holiday an important distinction that means the Public Holidays Act does not in fact contravene the constitution- another Public Holiday we’ve been celebrating all this time is Boxing Day on the 26th of December for the same reasons.


This means that Moi Day is still a public holiday we just conveniently forgot about it following the promulgation of the constitution. As mentioned before though roads get potholes, statues crumble, and days are forgotten-sometimes deservedly so. The opinion of the Kenyan public towards President Moi and his leadership is divided when considered through the lens of nostalgia. One thing that a majority of the public agree with though is that the days of our former President were filled with a lack of fidelity to the rule of law. An uncomfortable number of people were above the law, presidential pronouncements had the force of heavenly edicts and the government in its actions was not to be questioned.


Every argument by a pro-Moi citizen about the effects of unity and political stability has to be tempered against the way in which the government ran amok. Laws were for everybody else and their enforcement was harsh and immediate yet they never touched on the government, it’s leaders, and their actions. When tearing down monuments we can agree to start with that dedicated to absolute devotion to the government and unquestioning acceptance of their authority. That the tower of tyranny taunts us even now tells us we haven’t done enough or haven’t done the right things.


One of the tenets of democracy is the rule of law. The law as a ruler binds everyone even the government. The law states that the 10th of October is Moi Day and should be celebrated as a public holiday. This has not been done for 8 years. Breaking the law in order to tear down a monument to a ruler we don’t think deserved it has the unintended effect of strengthening the monuments to lawlessness that constituted the worst parts of that ruler’s regime.


There is a built-in irony to the consideration of Moi Day. In 1989 the President did not stand up and declare it a holiday he had parliament amend the Public Holidays Act. In this, the rule of law was adhered to and yet nearly 30 years later, after the fights for multi-partyism, the promulgation of a new constitutional dispensation, and even the overturning of a presidential election the proper procedure to have this day taken off the books has not been followed.


Parliament as the will of the people has the power and the responsibility to amend the Public Holidays Act to rename or remove Moi Day. Our Parliamentarians have had 11 months to consider whether or not to undertake this action and have not done so. This means either that they believe the day should be observed in its current form in honour of our 2nd President or that they could not be bothered to do the work necessary to amend the act.


This brings us to another necessary reason to observe this holiday: for the workers of the nation. We live in a country where only a tiny minority are granted the 21 leave days that the Employment Act provides for. Most people get up and go to work every day except weekends. In a country with an attitude towards worker’s rights such as the one displayed by most of our employers a public holiday is a necessity. It is for many the only day they get to rest and relax. The removal of a public holiday is not just an abstract example of the need for rule of law, it is a felt and real deduction from the benefits available to employees. A deduction all the more glaring when most people are working non-stop and the hint of a complaint could throw them into the more critical crisis of not having a job to complain about.


A public holiday is for almost all the only day that a family can gather and friends can see each other over long distances. In a country that is trying to define itself in relation to its past and its aspirations an opportunity such as the one presented to us should not idly pass us by.


Parliament had a golden symbolic opportunity to rename the past, to wash it clean, or to dedicate it to something else. The government has had the opportunity to continue ignoring the law. Presented before them is an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of President Moi and either break the law because they are its only enforcers or change the law because it is them we chose to speak for us.


There is also in the middle of this strange thing- a Public Holiday that exists in the books but hasn’t in reality for years- an opportunity for Kenyans. If our first colonisers had been French instead of English then Moi Day would unconsciously mean to all of us “my day.” And there lies another of the contradictions bound up in consideration of this day. If we could imagine a different (maybe worse, maybe better, who knows) history for ourselves, in a language we would then be familiar with, 10th of October would be for all of us “my day”.


Should we then imagine a different history for ourselves? There can exist in our minds a Kenya without Moi and his day. A Kenya without the legacy that means his proteges are now in charge of the country. A country that wasn’t marked, marred, and made for 24 years into what it was in 2002, what it is now. We can deny the effects of history on our current reality and refuse to consider it. We can even say that it wasn’t the British who came here and enslaved us but the French and light-heartedly call the 10th of October Mói day. We can do all that but that don’t make it real.


What is real is the 10th of October as Moi Day. What’s real is that with seriousness and intent we can make it our day. We can refuse to hide from history as Kenya so often does, we can decide to confront it and see what it tells us about who we are. We can take this day that was a symbol of the individual power resting in one man, this day whose discarding was a symbol of government’s lack of respect for law, and turn it into something.


Turn it into laughter with family and time with friends because in those institutions our most personal histories are writ. Use it to reflect on the state of our nation and where we are headed because the history we have not yet lived is the most important one. But importantly use it as each one of us sees fit. Personalise it  to ponder past presidents or pamper our bodyparts or peel through our public and private personas or peep into our past or parse through our present or prepare for pains and parties to come or parcel our time to people we love.


Whatever we choose as long as we chose it.


We can use it, use it so that when we call it “My day” we’ll have earned that right.


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Pater Noster

Our Father

This part of the prayer feels like it can best be written about by a person with a child. Someone asked me recently if I was sure I wanted many children, “because you love them so much.” There’s a pain to loving this much it seems, a sense of loss, or maybe a sense of gain so large that the potential loss it spells can cripple


When you say this part though you are evoking the gentle side of the deity. He who loves and creates, the one who gave the rainbow to the stars, the one who put the sparkle in the eye of the girl whose hand you never want to let go of. The one who made it so she could see the sparkle in your eye.


Who art in Heaven

He’s not here with us, or maybe he is, but we have to ascribe him some otherness at this point. This stresses the difference between us as the phrase before stressed the similarity, yes we’re made of the same stuff but we’re really not him. Then think of heaven for a moment. Scrub away the paintings of meadows and gold that arise in your mind because of illustrated bibles. Think of it as it could be, not a physical place but a spiritual one. It’s the absence of sorrow, it’s the presence of possibility. The sounds of children singing and playing, the waft of a perfectly cooked meal, never knowing anxiety and sorrow and the possibility of sorrow. You know that voice that’s always telling you that this is almost over, that’s always reminding you that this is not as good as it can get, that you are not as good as you can get, that you shouldn’t forget you’ve been badly injured and there’s more injuries in the future and that the greatest injury of all is waiting ahead of you, the one you can’t survive. It’s that voice shutting up.


Design is also in the absence. A small white room where you feel perfectly at ease. The smoothest shit you ever took, the best song you heard, the strongest love you ever felt. Marcus Aurelius asks us to strip away from things the adornments and affections we clothe them in “So for coitus, it is but the attrition of an ordinary base entrail, and the excretion of a little vile snivel, with a certain kind of convulsion”


David Grossman wonders, “how is it that with such great love between man and woman, and such passion that consumes the heart and flesh, all you do is stick a little smitchikel into a hole and that is that! But only that? The woman’s body should divide before you like the Red Sea! A raging Sambation River should flow between you and drown you seven times, and you should rise gray as ashes, your eyes dim, unable to utter a single word for a year to come, having reached the land of love! As if once having seen the face of heaven-knows-what you were saved by a veritable miracle!”


Heaven is the place where the latter happens.



Which means to make holy, to adore as pure, to aspire to as perfect, to hold up as Simba was held up by Rafiki.


Be Thy Name


“I am who I am”- the deity of the Bible who people refer to as Yawheh


“You say I took the Name in vain, I don’t even know the Name.”-Leonard Cohen.


I really like the Jewish idea that nobody can know the Name of God, that all we have are approximations in our human languages. Well- imagine it if you’re an atheist and even if you’re not. We’re only now approaching Mars as human beings. The sun that shines in the sky is a wondrous and unapproachable power yet it’s one of a billion stars. Look at the night sky from a desert with no light pollution and you see the stars gathered together so close, holding each other so tight it looks like somebody spilled milk on the sky. Imagine further than this to the millions of galaxies and all the wonders contained therein- the possibilities of other life, minerals burning up so fast nothing can live there, a black hole where light can’t escape from, the spaces in the night sky held for stars that we cannot see, all the stars that we can see but don’t exist anymore, the awesome truth of that.


That’s the universe. And now try to imagine a being that created all that. A short-circuit occurs in your mind refusing to allow you to see it all. What does that being call itself? In what way does it think? When you ask it its name what do you even mean? That name, that ineffable name, that unknowable name you have imagined, it doesn’t belong to us, it couldn’t. If the being exists it thinks in terms of billions of years and while it could with a thought bring life into being the power needed for it to describe itself would leave galaxies desolate. That name it only belongs to it, we’ll never know it, and we should approach it carefully.


Thy Kingdom Come


“When God is in his Heaven, and we all want what’s his, but power and greed and corruptible seed, seem to be all that there is”-Bob Dylan.


Put a rest to this darkness and contamination surrounding us and come down in all your glory on the backs of rainbows and promises and love.


Thy will be done


I keep thinking that “the will of God” is shorthand for reality. This is how anyone religious thinks of it. Anything that happens God wills it, nothing can be without that will. Is this part of the prayer a statement or a question?


On earth as it is in heaven

There’s an idea that the reason sex is just putting a little smitchikel into a hole instead of the moving of mountains and creation of galaxies that it should be is because things are different here: corrupted, broken, and small. Yet we can put things right if we look into ourselves and find there what God wants us to do. This goes hand in hand with pantheism (God is everything) and pan-entheism (God is everything and the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.) To know what God wants us to do we should just look inside. Outside we can find guides but to know truth we have to ask God, we have to find his will in ourselves and if we attend to it maybe we can turn this arid, dust-blown, scorched-black, wrecked-and-warped  hill we live in into a paradise.


Give us this day our daily bread

We ask for contentment, we don’t ask for luxury. We ask for beauty, we don’t ask to own it. We ask for enough for today because that way everybody has enough for today too. The prayer is not just for us but for the entire fellowship of man.



Forgive our trespasses

That part of God inside of us? It’s always telling us we’ve done wrong. We know we are inadequate, we know we’ve hurt too many people, and have been too lazy, we suspect that if anybody could see the whole of us, the gnarled, broken bits that make up our soul, the dirty, shameful bits we see in our dreams, the warped, evil units of each of our various and varied secrets, that if anyone could see us in this way, down to our soul they would never look at us again. And we know we need forgiveness, that every moment of every day we should be told ‘you’re not so bad, you really aren’t no matter what you believe of yourself.’


As we forgive those who trespass against us

You’re not so bad… but you are bad. You have to give something for the things you get, this is what’s asked of you then, forgive them. Remember that a part of God lives in you and that you forgiving is God forgiving. It’s the clearing of the troubled dust covering your soul so that the part of God in you can shine more, so that it can be seen and inspire others to do the same. This is your task in this prayer. This is how you make His will be done down here. Do unto others as you would have God do unto you.



Lead us not into temptation


This seems to me an acknowledgement of weakness. Maybe if that money wasn’t so obviously displayed I wouldn’t take it. Allow me the fortune of not seeing that money so carelessly placed.


But deliver us from evil


Evil is not temptation. Evil is something else, temptation is the possibility of error, the possibility of sin. Evil is what you read about in the newspapers every day. It’s the thing they put in the news, it’s that story that stings your eyes. It’s inhumanity. It’s when we deny everything good in us and push it as far as possible. And its powerful, its seductive and sexy, it’s also just powerful-it can kill, it can maim, it can make your life hell. Evil is not as small as temptation. It isn’t the money lying around-it’s the children dying because someone knew this would happen if they took that money and did it anyway.


For thine is the goodness, the power, and the glory forever and ever Amen.

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The need for young Kenyans to be a little more informed before they mouth off on issues😊😊Present tense

Hope this one is a match to the challenge.


The- A signifier of something definite. It is usually used when there is no question about what we are referring to. For example- the major stumbling block to the development of our country has remained the deep division into tribal blocs and  holding of tribal identities as prime and superior to any national one.


Need- this is something that is necessary. It is a deep urge. The bending of a plant towards the sun if kept in a dark place signifies need. The fact that once past a certain age all conversations start with rejoinders about money, “how’s life?”, “kuhustle tu.” “yeah it’s dry as a dead dude in a desert dump out there because of elections/ corruption/ government mismanagement”- take your pick and repeat. Signifying the need for better economic management before we break apart-body from soul, mind from actions.


For- a connector between words in a sentence. Social media was thought to be a good connector between people before we realised the true face of the internet. Words warped by anonymity and stripped of feeling and context by being just words, by being words that are designed as a shouting match, by being words we wouldn’t say in person, by being words we would soften with a smile or a gleam in the eye, words we wouldn’t say to somebody we don’t know well but here, here we do.


Young- a feeling that we all share. Even when the bones creak and the grandchildren have grandchildren we will say to ourselves, “I’m not old, now Moi that guy is old.”


Kenyans- a difficult thing to define. A living computer was assembled by some white men decades ago. 55 years ago  the computer is switched on. It whirls to life and is made of 40-44 distinct moving parts. The parts are made of other parts too many to count. Their interaction is unpredictable, the result is unknown. Calculations are made inside this computer even as parts of it are flung far and wide and fears of its disintegration shake us all. This computer though may be durable. The different parts of it can begin looking like each other, or maybe not. The computer we live in and are a part of has not yet told us what Kenyans are it needs more data.


to be- a state of existence. This shows where we are and how we are. To be screwed is to live in a country with no institutional structures of opposition to the government. To be deep in a hole is to have seen the opposition survive due to the outsize personality of one man. To be reminded by the evolving structure of political parties and government appointments that somebody once said “100 years of Kanu.”


A little- not much. We make demands of others all the time but we know they have to live. We also know that living consists of so many things. To eat and work for food. To pray and strive for holiness. To love and look for companionship. To play and then to rest. In addition to all these things we cannot make too many demands.


More informed- a state of gathering knowledge. We have the tools to do it. We always have. We can listen to others, we can read things we don’t agree with, we can question deeply held beliefs because if it survives the questioning the belief makes you better. If it doesn’t survive the questions trade up, barter.


Before- a held breath, a second thought, a period in time where things are still in flux. When our actions are still clay in the hands of us, their potters.


They- a collective pronoun. A sweeping net designed to catch everything in its way. Fishermen have to make the holes in their nets big so that they young ones slip through them and get away. When the Christ talked about fishing men though he made it clear that nobody should escape that net. Who are we to contradict that man?


Mouth off- a phrasal verb. An apocryphal etymology of this phrase says that it comes about because once somebody does it everyone listening just wants to take that person’s mouth off. It is anathema to connection.


Issues- things important to us. If we ignore them we may need tissues. Ignore them further and they erupt in fissures. Faultlines form, warp the earth and make it vicious. The sid  can effectively be combated by more information as explained above.


  • 😊😊- can be seen as signifiers of happiness. Can be interpreted as cheekiness. Can be used to disguise a deep anguish with the state of things.


Present- a gift. Something that you give to signify affection, respect, lust, fear, and a host of other emotions. By definition it must be given willingly. The willingness can come about due to emotional blackmail and still be considered willingness. A present can also be a sacrifice. It can be searching yourself and asking, asking honestly if this is the place we want to be. If what we see happening makes us proud, makes us stand a little taller at the sound of our anthem, moves us to salute the fluttering of our flag or causes our insides to retch. But that is not a gift yet. Not to anybody but yourself. The reflections should then inform action. If the country you see and the place you can see it going is exactly what you want then keep doing what you do. If it is not then take a little action. Just a little. Even before you run for office it is enough to find out what these office does and how to make sure the officers do it. Learn something, and give the gift of this learning to the future we all hopefully blink against.


Tense- a situation where broken bottles lie all around a table. In this situation you find yourself without shoes. Rusty nails poke out of some areas and any sudden movement could cause a pail of gasoline to dump itself on you. Now, you don’t know if there is a matchstick or other source of fire around, you do know there is a ticking clock but you don’t know why it’s ticking. There are voices right outside the room but you don’t know what they are saying. There may be help coming but this is just faith talking to you, you don’t know that there is or where it will come from. You  need to move but you don’t know where. And for a moment all you can think about is how you wish, oh how you wish, you were a little more informed.

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the greatness of God from a child’s perspective

Marching on. The next challenge is the difficult title up there.


All she knew was that she had to catch it. The wind was whispering softly and carrying it on its belly, one of those spherical flowers, the kind where the seeds came off it if you blew gently and yet the strength of the wind, which she could feel in the slight shiver of her skin didn’t damage it.


It reminded her of her little brother. He had been so soft, so small, even his head where the skull was felt like it could crumple like a piece of paper. The joints between his hand and arm had been soft enough for even her to crush, and she wasn’t even that strong. She didn’t need to be told that this was something delicate her parents were caring for. It was clear that like the flower the slightest jolt could have scattered him into a million little pieces. Yet for a while the world had carried him just like that flower. Gently. With direction. He had learned to hold her hand, he had learned to smile, he had learned little baby noises. It had seemed like there was somewhere he was going until there wasn’t anymore. There was no him and nobody could explain it, not really.


In heaven they said. And at night her mother cried tears so persistent she had learned to sleep through them and to know by their sound in the morning that she really was home.


“What’s a will?” she had asked one of her teachers. They took her more seriously now she had noticed.


“It’s a piece of paper that people write while they are alive to say what should happen to their property once they die.”


“So, you mean God is dead?”


“Sorry wha…?”


“and that when he was alive what he wanted was for my brother to die?”


“I think I may have answered the wrong question. Uhm…. Why do you ask what a will is?”


“Everyone is always telling my mother it was the will of God. Then she nods and tries to be stronger.”


“Oh… sorry. Will is also just what somebody wants. The will of God is… you know our father’s prayer right?”


She did but more as a litany, a string of words, not something that held separate meaning, a sing-song she had…


“may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Her teacher interrupted her.


“Oh. Ok. So what does God want?”


“I should give you a better answer than this, but the truth is we’re all trying to figure it out. Maybe that’s why we’re all here to figure it out.”


“Do you think that’s why he died?”


“Your brother?”


“Yes, maybe he already knew and so he didn’t need to be here anymore.”


“That could be true, yes.”


And yet she could see the look that came over grown-up’s eyes when they decided you were too young to hear something. She also knew that when that happened there was no going back. For a few minutes there she had felt like her teacher was talking to her, actually talking to her but now, now it would be emptiness. She could always see the emptiness in their eyes, when they talked and looked off like they were thinking of something else, hiding something they didn’t want her to know, never understanding just how much she did know.


She had finally caught the flower. She sat down and began blowing on it, seeing the little flags borne on the wind, flying upwards and away. She wondered for a moment where they were going and then in a sudden fit tried to bring them back. She ran after them and tried to wave them into her hands. They slipped though on their onward journey, unwilling to listen to her as hard as she tried.


Her mother had tried too she remembered. She could remember how her mother had tried on that night, doing everything possible and failing. She hadn’t imagined that could happen before, her mother could do anything until right that moment when she saw that it wasn’t true. And she looked for the seeds that had gone and saw nothing there and knew that even her mother couldn’t have stopped them. That they would have gone on going wherever the wind wanted, wherever God willed. It wasn’t true what her teacher said, that we didn’t know what God wanted. God wanted those flowers to fly away, you only had to look around you to  know, to realise that everything we thought and wanted were dreams and that only the will of God turned into reality. That’s how you could know what he wanted just look at what happened.


Her mother’s voice was calling her and she turned to the sound. Worried about her. Worried that she shouldn’t be running off when her mother was so weak. Worried that her knowing her mother was weak only made her weaker. All the times she had heard that believing something makes it real played in her head.


“Look mama, look.” The sun had been setting later and later, hanging in its setting as if waiting for something or someone to look up and see it. It wasn’t there now but it lit up the undersides of the cloud so that they glowed gold and light. The sky’s colour had passed through just blue heading to the border with green in some places, feather like touches of cloud passed in front of them and a flock of birds cawing and cackling as they went off on their secret missions.


She snuck a quick look at her mother to see if she was looking. And she actually was, staring at the sunset with the same intensity as she used to before. A small tear was making its way down the lines in her face, and then it hang there like the sun. and in itself it caught the whole world, she had to stop breathing to see clearly. Right in that tear she could see the sun and the birds and herself and her mother.


This was reality too, this tear and all the things it captured, all the things it contained. There was something of God in that tear, in that moment, something of him peeking out.


“Mama have you ever seen God?”


Smiling down at her in the old way, and looking at her like she had never seen her before her mother simply said,



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Mystery, religion, and sex

The 3rd March

Wherein I was told- Anything that combines sex, religion and mystery


“The righteous perisheth, and no man lay it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in uprightness.”


The strangely garbed priest intoned the words solemnly. Finished, he reached for his chalice. She took it in wonderingly, just as she had  everything else about this church. The cup was carved out of some kind of dark wood, ebony is what it called to her mind, sprinkled around it were tiny gold sprinkles that looked like motes of dust. She could only tell they were made of gold because her father had once smuggled precious minerals through the country-the running family joke being that he should have been the one issued with those export compensation certificates from so long ago. Anyone though could see the pattern that played while light shone on the surface of the cup, a man in agony hoisting a cross far too big or him, and a hand reaching out from somewhere in the sky to help lift it.


She waited patiently through the service- one that alternated between archaic English terminology and queer dogmatic expressions that should have reached out to the inquisitors from times past. When it ended the priest rose to his feet and the congregation knelt down.


“My Lord we offer you the meagre sacrifice of the clay you created us with, we hope you look on our pure intentions and not our poor offering, we ask for the blessings of Abel knowing we deserve the fate of Cain, we beseech thee for the bow knowing full well we deserve the rain. Amen.”


The congregation then rose to its feet and the priest knelt before the altar. Almost as one they intoned, sending up the sounds like reverberations because of the acoustic quality of the building.


“We turn inward to remember the sacrifice of your son, and the pain of his mother, we turn outwards to wonder at the glory of your creation and the destruction we have wrought on it, we turn sidewards to consider the great gift of human life and companionship, we look downwards towards the dirt we will become, and we look up towards the divine we hope to be. Amen.”


Calmly the priest unsheathed the sword at his hip. One of the congregation stepped forward and took it from his hand. Then in a ceremony reminiscent of knighting nicked him on one shoulder then the other.


“May the blood of the lamb wash the filth of the butcher. Amen.”




The congregation filed away after that leaving her in the darkness of the cavernous room. After thirty minutes the priest came back in.


“Sorry it took so long but I had to get my wounds tended to, I’m sure you understand-we aren’t crazy after all.”


All she gave him was a half-hearted laugh.


“You should know though that priesthood in our religion is rotational. Just as the scapegoat from Leviticus was anew every year so is the blood we she… wrong choice of words.”


“Yes, on that I agree.”


“The attack though, we couldn’t let it change us. As you can see we have built a monument to the Divine within a few  months of it.”


“That I can see. You must know why I’m here.”


“That my dear remains the mystery.”


Her eyes turned cold, fury at such blatant copping out.


“Actually I have some idea. Why don’t we walk as we talk.” This was the effect that look usually had. She didn’t know whether it was a result of any inner fire or the firepower commanded by her last name, but this church had been razed to the ground not too long ago and here it was standing straight. The police had been going around in circles, and actually going around in circles not just waiting for the mealiest handout. All her family’s contacts inside the service could ascertain was that it was very important to find a man with a sewing machine.


More frustratingly though was that she had got nowhere. The smuggling routes that her father and mother had opened had been maintained and widened over the years. Now they moved not just minerals but people too, drugs, weapons, anything the world needed. The responsibility to maintain them had fallen on her shoulders a few years ago, “maintain and expand. We’re going to try this straight commerce thing for a while. And on your 25th birthday we hand you a port in Lamu for all the expanded volume.”


Legacies was what her parents were thinking about, and as this was happening there was somebody arranging the smuggling of weapons without her knowledge. It infuriated her. It bothered her more than the blood that was shed, everyone dies and in this sect of Christianity they seemed to believe an early death to be the mark of favour from God. In Christianity in general she reminded herself, she had recognised the words of Isaiah who spoke as much for the Jewish religion of home as that of export.


“It is no secret that God has blessed our hands.” Saying this he indicated murals painted in brilliant colours-purples and reds, stained glass windows bending all the light that passed through them into beautiful playing prisms, and the understated glow of platinum beams. “The secret remains the well. Do you know the story of Elisha and the widow?”


An oil fountain that never went dry would explain how they had put this church back up. She nodded silently.


“Glad to see that you are read up on the bible. Just as the widow sent out her sons for vessels so do we. Come in this way.”


She followed him into a chamber cut into the ground, a trap-door like she used to imagine her father hiding in back in his smuggler days. She had found smuggling to be a little more professional than that- bribing not hiding, and ruthless- murder those who negotiate harder.


The priest was smiling as he opened up the doors. “This is what they sought to destroy, our Eden.”


Writer’s note-  I just couldn’t find a way to fit in that last one so no sex, sorry. I kept thinking “next paragraph, ok next one” and so on, in the end it defeated me. I’m not even sure if the relligion was relligious or the mystery mysterious actually. Still thank you for the challenge.




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A Kenyan in Uganda or a Kenyan looks at Uganda

March Madness challenge 2-A Kenyan in Uganda or a Kenyan looks at Uganda. I want to read a short story from that perspective. How you do it is up to you.



“Ok, SSebo.” He said turning around to receive glowing green bottle of mountain dew that had been demanded. He winked in thanks and turned around.


The night had begun turning chilly while it was still evening and now he wished he had worn something warmer than this tee-shirt. He remembered a few years ago, when he first moved to Kampala and every day felt heavy and sweaty and hot. Back then he had dreamed of nights like this, those and the flat plain of Nairobi. But the body and the mind acclimatise to everything. Nowadays he could almost spot a rhythm in the way the boda bodas moved. He saw their jamming together as a kind of atomic imperative- the laws of Newton being followed to a tee. Their lack of regard for road rules was a wink to the inevitability of chaos, their noise was yet another song lifted up to a universe so silent it needed all it could get. He had been back home and seen the slow infestation of Kenya with the same disease and displaying the same symptoms but what they did in Nairobi could not compare to what happened here.


Earlier in the evening he had witnessed the passing of one convoy. The sun had just began setting and the light was weaker as if it had been shaded or now took longer than the prescribed eight minutes to get to earth losing a wave  with every second, a photon every minute. The world hooded itself with shadows and the sounds of crickets announced night’s homecoming. His moment of introspection was spoiled by the show though. Motorcycle after motorcycle whizzed past. They hooted as they passed, four abreast, swarming like locusts. Most impressive though were the women on the back of the motorcycles. Each driver carried with him a specimen worthy of finer study, individual attention. A lady who though robbed of her singularity combined with the one beside her and behind her and in front to form a moving monument to booty. Their higher voices and more carefree laughter dotted the evening. Turning the distraction from an inconvenience into a circus.


When it ended he crossed the road and sat down for some soup. He had been coming here for months now and they knew just what he wanted. It was put down in front of him along with some ugali and cabbage to wash it down. He had no idea what they put in this soup, there was a texture so rich and smooth that every sip of it brought to his mind the word baganda. The chilli was mixed in just right, taking up the spaces between the liquid and the bubbles, he had been slurping it so intently that he completely missed Atu’s entrance.


“I knew I’d find you here.”

“This doesn’t make you psychic, anyone would find me here.”

“This is how you talk to a girl you are trying to talk to?”

“Would you rather I told you that the very scent of you as you walked in filled my head with so many daydreams I’m still seeing everything orange? Or that I’ve been thinking what to tell you since the last time we spoke?”

“Mkenya, that would be good.”

“It would and I realise you think you want good. In all my time here this soup was the finest taste of Uganda. There is nothing like it at home and yet it feels familiar, like I sampled it in another life and only chose to be born in Kenya by mistake, or only so I could have it later in life when I could appreciate it. Then I tasted you and knew that was all a lie.”

“Doesn’t it feel nice to tell your girl such things? Not all the time this roughness. Eiii.”


After supper they had made their way back to his shop where he now had her as a helper, someone to reach for soda, someone to warm his surroundings. He turned away from the customer he had just served. It was time to close anyway. He pulled shut the door of the shop. Feeling the excitement of the next action already building up in him.


“What shall we have today Atu?”


“A quiet night without the aid of alcohol?” The twinkle in her eye said that this statement meant vodka.


He had never imagined that he would spend his life as a shopkeeper in another country. But life gave you what it did. And when it did what was important was to go to the freezer in the shop, slide it open so that mist and cold poured out of it and crept along the floor like a new-born baby, consider the rainbow made by tall bottles of gin and brandy and vodka, reach for the chosen sacrifice and hear its brothers clink in happiness, shut that door,  and pour a gulp down your throat. There was never going to be any lemonade anyway.


“Ehhh you Kenyans. You just drink like there is no tomorrow.” Her eyes still sparkled in merriment. He handed her the bottle. She did what he did except somehow she made it classy, there was something dainty in her movements, measured as if to the beat of the music of the moon, something dazzling even in that act. Then she laughed setting off small tremors in him.


“Did I ever tell you about the first Kenyans I met?”


“The first ones ever?”


“Yah. It was a long time ago. I was visiting my cousin in a place called Mityana. She told me there were these Kenyans who liked drinking in this local bar. Waraji and mountain dew was their cocktail. So we went. I had just finished high school, they were in university there for some work thing. I don’t really remember. All that rang in my mind was Nazizi singing ‘Kenyan Boy.’ I was so excited. So we went and my cousin introduced me. Ohhh they were fun. We talked and we laughed for a long time. All the time they ordered more waragi. Poured it into their glasses sometimes, shots for everyone others. The night ended with us walking to their place. I have to tell you Mityana is a semi-rural place, at that time there were no street-lights. People would fetch water from the river-electricity was spotty so it could go for fourty hours or four depending on, who knows. And they lived far away from the bar. We’re walking along, all of us unsteady. Evening dew has already started settling on our toes. These shoes we wear as women sometimes, I don’t even know what they are for. Wet grass defeats their protective purpose. Just that is enough. We came to a bridge and we had to cross it to get there. It swayed as we went, I was really scared but I made it through. The guy I was talking to though slipped just before we got to the end. When we got home I had to wait as he looked for a candle and water to wash with and then proceeded to bathe. I was young though, and not going anywhere anyway. He finished his process and took me to his room. And can you imagine he was unable to do anything. I was so ready I just went to join my cousin and her friend. ”


The conclusion of the story had him half-rising already. “That really happened?”


“Of course not, but you see the value of sweet lies? Already you’re rising to me. and that’s just the lesson behind the first bead. We call it talking the blood down. You know someone has been knocking on the door for a while now.”


He stood hesitant for a minute.


“Are you going to open it or do you want to come here and find out more of the secrets of the Nile.”


“The secrets of the Nile?”


“How it floods, where it flows, what makes it squirt. Other bead lessons.”


He went to Atu. The man on the other side of the door stood for a minute and thought back to the sewing machine his men had carried out that day so many years ago. His heart beat faster at the thought of finding its owner soon. He decided that the only thing he could do was knock louder.





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