{This Poison}

An animal fear floods my throat when there is sudden movement
from the corner of the street where a tarp has been laid over the trees
to protect the men who smoke and drink and chew khat during
the hot hours of a Nairobi weekend day.
The fear boils in the back of my mouth, slow to retreat as I realize
that there is no one coming for my suddenly-fragile form
as I walk towards home.

I will tell you that I had to keep this bile in my throat, this poison.
This is not the kind of thing that you give to people wrapped in
pretty words with a loving card.
This is the kind of thing that shoots from your body.
So I swallow it.
And swallow it.
This is the kind of thing that I must keep.

The next time you talk to an angry woman, remember that she might have had enough
of keeping the bile in her throat.
She might be tired of the poison burning her tongue.
She might not have room in her body for a stranger’s poison.

This is not the kind of thing you wrap in pretty words.


{A Division}

I feel the memory before it is translated for me.
D— swings his arm wide from his body, just above
the ocean’s soft waves,
speaking quickly and persistently in his language.
The others laugh, their faces opening
wide with joy.
The memory as it is recited in a language I don’t know
sweeps over me, and I start laughing too.
The waves wash around us, cold on my body.
They turn to me to translate the story, words stumbling
out of their mouths.
I listen but I already know;
I’m already laughing.

{10 May 2017}

I feel the ghosts of poems unwritten in my mouth.
The man on the side of the road reading his texts;
The pink toilet in the ditch;
The girl cartwheeling on the field;
The theft of a home;
The spiced tea in a mug;
The outstretched legs on a blanket;
The blinking brake lights;
This time;
This life.
Here they are – just for you,
Brought out of their dark home.

{This House of Ours}

We built love up around us like a house.
The old traditions say that we’ve built upon rock.
The old traditions say that our foundation is strong:
It will endure the harshest storms blowing off the seas
Of our lives.

It stands the test of time:
While we redo the floors, the windows keep out the rain.
While we replace the glass in the windows,
We sleep on sturdy floors.

Our carpets are woven of steadfastness and the
Tapestries hung on the mantel, perseverance.

Even when we leave this place, this house of love,
It stands waiting for us, weathered but true,
It’s door swinging wide open for the
Weight of years lived apart.

{The Young Maasai}

Our young Maasai guide, Dickson, walks
Us in the land around our camp.

He is thin.
Under his traditional red wraps, shukas, and
Beads over his shoulders and around his waist,
You can see his ribcage, collarbones,
Shoulder blades, hips.

I wonder about how different our lives are
— I know this isn’t original —
But all the things I’ve experienced
That he never will.
All the things he has experienced that
I never will.

I wonder about how many layers I have
Covered my humanity with, the many
Different ways I have avoided the
Truth of the matter.

I wonder if it’s easier to find the soul if
You can already see the ribcage.

{The Morning}

Satao Elerai, Amboseli, Kenya
1 June 2016, 7:15 am

The sounds of the morning rise up around us, not-so-silent observers.
The kettle boils;
the dove calls from his nest his humble noise;
the crickets chirp;
the birds take flight, disturbing the air;
the coffee pot pours coffee;
the hot milk runs over the pan;
the zebras bark at a distance, their young just waking;
the birds — sunbirds, songbirds, many — sing to their thorny trees;
the sofa creaks under our weight;
the trees shift in the still morning air;
the pens move across pages;
the writers sip from cracked mugs;
and Satao Elerai wakes.