Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Who would have thought
That today
in two thousand and four
When you are supposed to be
a sprightly forty two year old
writer in Cleveland Heights
You would instead,
be residing as a pile of ash
in an urn in Ohio
Who would have seen you dying
Leave alone dying
as an African-American
Jewish mystic

Cancer claimed you at forty
Five days before Xmas
of two thousand and two
A year and a half
of swift excruciating pain
That you endured
While laughing and writing
And whoosh, you were gone
Leaving behind
a twenty year old daughter
And twenty dozen friends
From Guyana to Germany
Across races, fashion styles,
religions and ideologies
We all claimed you
And you left a piece of you in us

In the last seven years
of your life
We were lifelong friends
I still store
your curvy calligraphy
Poetically telling me how
And when you did
your groceries in Cleveland
Still have those mix tapes
You made for me of
Burning Spear blended with Salif Keita
And have those kick ass
feminist mags from the UK
That you gave me
when you came over
In the summer of ‘95
For the wedding of
Shelina and Grace
At the Cathedral on
Sherbourne and Bloor

Still touches me
That I was among four or five
Friends and family
You invited
To come with you
to the health food store
Next to the Greek restaurant
on the Danforth
In Toronto's east end
When you were seeking
A non-toxic alternative
to chemotherapy
At the beginning of
two thousand and one

You were so brave and
unafraid I recall
As you listened to
the east European woman
Tell you about stevia and thyme,
ginger and gingko biloba
And all the other organic
flipsides to the capsuled recipes
From the white robed dispensers of deathly cures

Do you remember the laughter we savoured
In that dramatist’s basement
just south of Eglinton West, east of Oakwood
And even though you were weak and coughing
Your intellect was keen
your eyes were glinting with mischief
As you joked about those frightened friends
Who came to see you
And how YOU had to console THEM
Reminding them that
you were not dead yet

And then one day in December
A cold email in my Outlook inbox
Told me
you had breathed
your last
A sense of loss
engulfed me for I was not
The only who had lost you
But with that same loss
Also a sense of relief
That at last you had escaped
From the Abu Ghraib terrors
Of the cancerous torturers
The ruthless tiny tormentors
That had to choose
The healthiest, cleanest living
Most vivacious generous woman
I had ever known
And destroy all her internal organs one by one
First with this melanoma then with the other carcinoma

Karen I refused
to say my goodbyes to you
Since you never left me
And forget Karen
You will always be KJ to me
Your poems are still here
As are all your letters, your tapes
Your magazines, your photos
And of course all those memories
We shared when
we were lovers
in the early nineties
Your lesbian friends
were shocked
When you left
another woman
for me
Your were not fazed
Already a mother
of a teen daughter
You simply told me
I fall in love with people
Not orientations
Sometimes you fell in love with men
Sometimes you fell in love with women
You told me
That it just so happened
That you fell in love with me

That love declaration has never and will never
Leave me…


You will not remain hidden
under a sheaf of yellowing manuscripts
filed away from the clutches
of feline creatures driven to their death beds
by their proverbial curiosities
or shielded from the pesky peeks
of slovenly peeping toms
totally unfamiliar
with the voice of grace jones
singing about private lives
no you will not buried
like a clandestine love letter
In one of the bottom drawers
Far away here
in my Montreal home office
I refuse to conceal you and the joy
You brought into my life
For twenty eight days in the year just past
I refuse to hide you and the happy memories
You bequeathed to me
From anyone in this wide wild world

I told my mshikaji about you
And even though
She did not jump with joy
She still told me not to worry
She too
checked out other people
In the twenty two odd years when
We were separated by circumstance
And you too
Told me about your man
Who left you for America

I am old enough to realize
That one man can love
More than one woman
And one woman can love
More than two men
At the same time

Some say that
It is often pragmatism
That compels us
To choose the one we remain with
Among the many we could be with

Is monogamy congenital,
genetic and hereditary
I often wonder
Even as I shudder at
the misogyny of polygamy
And muse about
the rarity of polyandry
I recognize the patriarchic privileges
That sanctions us men to have
nyumba ndogos and ndogo ndogos
Even as we jealously
With notorious male double standards
time anxiously
with our ever ready stop watches
the arrival of our bibi wadogo
Coming back into the living room
After a quick trip to the bed room
In our insecure male paranoia
We fret, we worry, we panic
Wondering and pondering
if those few minutes
Away from our male gaze
Was not enough for her
To do something
Sexually subversive
Behind our suspicious backs
Not sure if a secret lover
And unknown male rival
Is stashed under the king size bed
In the master bedroom
Ready to unleash an unforgettable quickie
Leaving her secretly
quivering with delirious delight
As she carefully adjusts her beautiful dress
covering her moist mound of Venus
above the twitching tingling button
at the head of that
ever contested juicy valley
Between which
a sweet smelling feminine
river runs contentedly
As she makes her way back to us
Even as the mythical he
Jumps out of the window
Into the treacherous night
Of our impotent imagination
Leaving us cruelly and coldly cuckolded…

Even as I prepare
To live with a woman from Kirinyaga
For the rest of my life
I simply cannot edit
The woman from Nyeri
from my reveries and not so ancient history

I want you to be frank
Please tell me something
Am I a dog
for publicly acknowledging you
When everybody has read
all the romantic poems
I composed for Njeri?

You welcomed me to your city
With open arms
And open legs
You invited me to your kiosk
And told me
That none of your fruits
Were forbidden to me

In your arms
I discovered the potency
Of a Nyeri woman’s passion
On both sets of your lips
I found out why
We often go back
to the same beach
To dive deeply and
do the breast stroke
in the same embracing waters
To be engulfed by the same welcoming waves
Of sensuous excitement
Driven by our erotic thirst
Our ceaseless quest
For the familiar sizzling gropes and thrusts…

What we had between you and I
Was a private thing, never a fling
We accepted
the inevitability of impermanence
You asked me no questions
Of my past, my present or my future
And I did not want to know
If they had been other lovers
Even as I could clearly see and feel
That they had passed this way

You were never the other woman
And I was never the other man
You were just you, Muthoni
And I was just me, Oloo
Two Kenyans enjoying
each other’s intimate company
In the private spaces of Nairobi
Often after midnight
And for hours and hours and hours
Before that central Kenyan dawn
Clasped together relaxed and dreamy in sated stupor

Let the magistrates of morality
Haul us to their courts of hypocrisy
And try us for gross immorality
But even before they begin
Let us plead guilty
To the charge of loving each other
With no strings attached
Of cherishing each other
Without a motive to own
and possess the other

Why did we do what we did?
In self-defence can I argue
That I had not yet reconnected
With the one who is now my true love?

That sounds
awfully callous
As if you
were just a conduit
for my lust
The fact is
I met you and you fascinated me
And you were more than a little interested in me, shall we say
We went out
for a date
ate some food, had some drinks
talked a bit
and then we went out on another date
ate some food, had some drinks
danced with each other
to the gyrating beats of
a live African band
in one of those nyama choma
makuti thatched clubs
And we took a break from the dance floor
And sat in a quiet corner chatting
Getting to know each other
Candidly recognizing
The familiar knots
girding our respective loins
And making our voices dry
In spite of the drinks we sipped
Somehow, before the night was out
We ended up at your place
And in your space
we had time to explore
One another
Leisurely, hungrily, eagerly
Within the four corners
of your bedroom
You gave me
an explosive
reintroduction to Nairobi
After all these years
That will stay with me
for ever and ever

The world of latex,
coy foreplay
kinky erotic background music
and steamy safer sex
Provided a twenty first century context
To the mysteries of feverish
Contemporary sexual intimacy
Even at a time when
copulation can be lethal
Love can still be
expressed with a carnal caress

Am I therefore a veritable hound,
a certified canine
The verified cousin of a terrible dingo,
An incorrigible coyote or simply a detested jackal
Am I a greedy wolf, a shifty fox
or any of the doggish K-9 relatives
related to the common dog
Because here I am
Logging in my blog
Announcing to the whole world
The dozens of orgasms that you showered me with?

Is it true what they say
About us men
That we really are like dogs
That sooner or later
We begin to bark
Obeying our animal natures
As we go woof, woof woof!
Goof goof goof!
just because of nyaf nyaf nyaf?

Say hi to your shy cousin
And your bright younger sister…

Sincerely Yours,