Monday, May 12, 2008


To one across the sea...

There is a place down-river from the glorified squatter settlement I was raised in. Right on the banks of the Kitisuru river. That Kitisuru, the life-blood of my people... and lots of others in the city who partake of cabbages, sukuma wiki and varied greens nourished in its waters by a motley bunch of peasant farmers along its meandering tracks.

Yes, there is a place. A place that brings succour to my broken spirit. A place where I take my rustic retreat. It is a place of escape from life's theatre of broken dreams and the harries of a city that will not let me be. By the pleasant stream I lie with the tapering royal palm and the ancient mugumo tree as my shield from the invidious beckoning of a city that cannot brook my penury.

Sometimes I loll upon a grassy knoll, with the slender stalks of the Kikuyu grass brushing against my blushing face. My countenance lights up as I pull, ever so gently, on the wet, tender fronds of the water plants. As the musky fragrance of new bloom tickles my nostrils with a bitter-sweet stimulation, everything about me is transmogrified. All of an easy sudden, those wet... tender fronds are dark tresses of hair. The cuddly soft breeze is not the wind but your whisper in my ear.

How I have longed for your company. Right from when I was a little boy, shaping flutes out of the giant reeds and humming happy tunes, I knew that someday there will be two of us here. Two of us, all giggly, perched up on the crook of that Meru oak. Up there with our just-for-two tickets to the Kitisuru Bird Orchestra. I have always known that on that day you will share the magic of my world and marvel at the refrain of the weaver birds. And the birds, as you would realise, sounding as though they were calling out my name.

And all that merely the matinee.

“So, how about a late lunch?”
There is a glorious clump of arrowroots thereabouts. How is that with a side of that sugar cane, there? How luscious it looks. How succulent? Just like... just like... Then we can wash it all down with this here water melon.

Hey, I can even show you a trick: how to split the water melon's outer covering with just the teeth. ...split it and suck it... Suck it all out.... With my tongue! Here Boo Boo, want to try that?

It is the taste of the Kitisuru. Wild. Addictive. Changing. Just like chocolate, this here as they say, will make you never want to go back to vanila.

Want some dessert?
There is a wide selection of berries down stream. Hey watch out for the stinging nettle... Ouch! Okay, let me rub this there. Right there where it itches. We used to call this weed rub-rub-sweetness. Works better than that there your newfangled Vaseline.

Try those ones. No, No... that there is Datura Stramonium... I meant those other ones. The ones to the left. Yes, those in the glistening shades of Kitisuru rich ochre.
Delicious, eh?

Let us sit here. Uhm, this spot reminds me of a Christmas long gone. We had no money for liquorice and all sorts of goodies and yet we had grown up knowing that Christmas was about special things. The special things, mind you, that money can buy. But we had no money so we made do? No way, we improvised. (Sometimes I feel like poor people have the best fun sometimes, they can draw joy out of the smallest things; make a feast out of the most banal of ingredients. But it is always a fleeting thought... me, I have no time to romanticise poverty).

We had no money so we pinched a wee morsel of lard from the filthy tin-can in grandmother's kitchen. A can that had started its journey around the world carrying cooking oil: Gift From the People of the USA. That must have been the year when our parents used to walk over to the Chief's camp to pick food rations. And sometimes we would accompany them and finding our nursery school teacher there, she would make us line up and sing: Wi ara the woud... wi ara the shudren...
With the lard and a discoloured, used can of Kimbo, we made our way through the thickets and over long barren plots of land to this place.

On this spot we made our greatest Christmas lunch ever: fried grasshopper with flame-grilled locust. (A chameleon happened to pass by and changed colour from the dusty brown of that rock there to the crispy, golden-brown of kuku porno). To crown it all, we munched on pilfered sugarcane, sweet potato and nduma baked the traditional way- just the way cucu used to- under a pile of smouldering ashes.

Sometimes Christmas comes but once in a lifetime!

After lunch we decided to paint the waterfall blue. Literally. Yes, we had half a tub of paint from God-knows-where. Oh, waterfall... It is upstream... Here, give me your hand, sweet lover... let me show you.

Beautiful, no...? See... look, baby, look... over there on that rock-face on the right bank. No, not where the antelope is... a little lower... yes there.


On that Christmas day I wrote my name there. I wrote it in blue paint. Blue is the colour of love, my love.

Uhm, that... a Swastika? ...yes it is. We were young country boys, what did we know about all these Western wars, symbols, semiotics and bullshit? We just liked the symbols because we thought they were cool. Cultured. Drawing a Swastika on your wall was right up there with sticking a Pele picture on your autograph book. It meant you were with it. No, you were IT. You knew that you knew and everyone knew that you knew. Tut tut...! Hey, look here on my left arm, see? I got a Star of David tattoo. I did it with that prickly plant over there. Maybe I should replace that star with your name. No, no... it doesn't hurt. Not much, anyway... There you go... yeah, deeper sunshine... deeper....

Now pass me that there rub-rub-sweetness.