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I have wishes of greatness too
Except in the evenings, I am indecisive
Susceptible to blunt songs, somber poems, and timid chatters
of youth. I’ve lost count of how much I’ve held out my hand
Wishing I could spell my name on another’s lips
And just like in love, I am afflicted by a strange feeling
of not being enough. The nights are wistful embers of an
inverted desire of belief. I don’t believe enough except today
I run away to congratulate myself on what little I’ve achieved
Realizing that something sets us looking for fulfillment,
sweet memories to show that if we could only feel this longer
all inadequacy would be shred. I comprehend that
the loneliest people have a stock of wishes
But I see myself differently, as if that gives me hope for more
I do not recognize these things. I don’t want to think of life again
Only to dazzle at the person that I am … miserable when I reflect
How routine is eating away at my youth.
The only reality of wishing is hoping I could feed my desires
In a life meandering its way through evenings I stare unto the sky
to say goodbyes until nothing remains. There should be more, I guess
though I really don’t wish for it. I no longer pray
I live my days capturing moments like everyone else
Except that I want to write when I think about the face of God

Dear Poetry

Dear Poetry,

I am tired. You’ve inhabited me for long, but from today I have to make a decision. Perhaps my decision doesn’t matter since you remain ignorant of my needs. Not once have I shied from crying my heart out when I was deprived of love. As it is, I am a yet a man knowledgeable enough to adapt to hurt. I feel abandonment is a metaphor of my existence, an icy rod of my spine or a sentence surgically inserted in my Achilles tendon for derailment, so I plod. You’ve chained my hands with pitiable words, you inconsiderate bastard! How many times must you want a muse and condemn me to sign songs I do not like, those that taste like ash burning my vocal cord with words like, I want you.

I need you to understand. I’ve been a faithful devotee who has explored your forms, enticed language so you would be expressed. I have gone through each of your rites, attended workshops, dreamt and woke up violated forever. I’ve violated others too for the sake of your purity. It isn’t said loud enough, but when a young person turns to a poet, he loses love and remains with the idea. There are times I’ve pledge allegiance to you when you appeared numerously as a woman, as it is, I am yet a man seduced by flesh.

You are no longer a saint, poetry. I’ve witnessed your deceit, the emptiness you bring. The moderate flings, the sex, the damsel in distress. I must admit that I no longer feel enticed by your prowess, yet the more I want to leave, the greater the nuance of your lips, you kiss like heaven. But I am not a believer, not for you. I can’t live with the idea that I am a scourge of something as if I am not privileged enough to withstand that thing you do with your tongue.

Enough! If you loved me would I still be in the multitudes and confines of failed poets? Would I still be crying for your pity? Why wouldn’t you tell this woman I have loved her? Tell her I am destroyed by calm desire. You would know this, it’s better to have violent desire, rave madly about it, have it eat you than do nothing about it. Violent desire can be creative; I can write the millionth poem, it can win me an award, and for the sake of history, I might be inducted into the hall of fame for hopeless romantics who did wonders for love. However, calm desire elicits no response, it’s stilled, it betrays perception, and it doesn’t show nor try to win.
So poetry, is a poet failed when he can no longer fight?

Eddy Ongili 2016

Portraits

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The art of forgetting made me safe
Even as I dreamt, it protected me
Even as I dreamt, I could stomach the hurt
I could climb the stairs, eyes closed
And look in the mirror without flinching
I was elated, signing inches above the podium
full of people like the sand – no sweet songs
like the Sirens. I experienced love but also
endured suffering. Even the pain
I wore like a white shirt, clear enough
for a painting. I felt the earth protecting me.
When I embraced suffering, and under
the garments tainted white by mischief
I was unfulfilled. I skinned myself
for ink, shoveling blades onto
my veins until the canvas came alive
and birthed a portrait. It hanged. I survived
and felt no danger – nothing at all
I was a primary example of good
Something I am beginning to remember
A jinx that is separating inside me.

© Eddy Ongili, 2016
ArtWork by Schaman

#MisimuZangu Review

Perhaps the greatest merit of spoken word is its ability to fuse poetic elements into performance. There is the plain spoken word, devoid of any logical features and while it may be argued the arts do not aim for this, the premise stands, art has to make sense. Mostly, this type of performance baffles even the most ardent and optimistic fans. It gets tiresome with time because content and authenticity are thrown out of the window for gimmicks. I’ve had my reservations towards spoken word especially the one I continue to find in most events, and though the quality is quickly improving, a lot is to be desired.

However, we (art lovers) find ourselves in the quest for something good, something relatable, a striking incident or feature that would deepen our interest with what we encounter in life. A few spoken word artists have managed to enthrall us with pieces that not only entertain us but also build our curiosity regarding poetry; its finesse, the ambiguity, authenticity, and meaning.

Gufy’s manages to create a balance between spoken word and poetry and through the few years that I’ve known him, his art has grown, exploring the hybridity and cross symmetrical attributes of spoken word and poetry. It’s through this path that any hint of his originality and style continues to develop, but others are given. His poetry is experimental, inventive, and avidly attuned to reality which serves the ambiguity of the arts; the imaginative and what is felt and reality and what is thought about.

Gufy’s album MisimuZangu exemplifies the aspect of being imperfect engaging the listener with the strengths and weaknesses of a human being, sometimes narrated from the third person but mostly specified in the first person. The poetry is marked with a deep fascination with the ways in which poetic imagery fuses present circumstances across past happenings and futuristic aspirations. While purchasing the album, I asked him what he hoped to achieve. He claimed all he wanted was to tell a story and if anyone would relate or be inspired then what more could we ask from the artist. The artist primary assignment is to tell a story, never claiming authority, never trying to persuade but hopefully aiming their art does the same which is a complete irony. However outlandish, it provides an expository underpinning of what can be done, as in “Hardships Na Silence” where the poet ponders on the future by questioning the present:

“… darkness divorces the night
the sins of yesternight will be forgotten ….
statistics zikipikwa utapaza sauti lini kama wewe ni
mhuskia wa ushirikina na dirty deals za fitina ….
The irony we associate success with but deep down
we are all slaves to what we appear to be against”

The narrative of this piece takes its idiosyncratic angle which I believe to be the peculiarities most people in Kenya possess. What it addresses is specified in “Ndimu Tamu” as:

nina uchungu wa roho, siasa za kupoteza ndugu
njoo nikuonyeshe aliyebaki na alama ya panga kichwani
njoo nikunyeshe aliyebakwa na maafisa waliyefaa kumlinda …
njoo nikuonyeshe anayeishi kwa hema …”

These pieces question our positions on controversial issues such a religion, politics, and social justice and equality aiming to show the underhanded tactics we use to survive, glorify or kill and complain against our detractors. This is why in Ndimu Tamu, a sort of refrain keeps jumping after each sentence “It’s not the politicians … mafala ni sisi.” The poet urges the people to refuse to be pawns of politicians and other greedy leaders. Furthermore, our understanding of life, the importance of religion (cue the strand of morality), tribal politics, and unemployment versus how we respond to them matters a lot in today’s society. Moreover, we’ve succumbed to artificialness seeking validation at all costs, we continue to glorify appearances and entitlement without considering if the next person sees fault in our actions or proclamations. This does not mean that we should relinquish of our sense of importance but act in the best interest of others while doing the same for ourselves.
Such is what the “So Love” explores. It examines identity politics, weighing our actions and arguments by questioning their level of truth. So Love begs the listener to self-cross-examine before throwing judgment of lampooning another with our prejudices. This is regardless of gender, as suggestive:

“custom made likings that short women are more beautiful
that tall women are hard to curve …
is it true that we’ve reduced the power of feels to the powers of
lightskins and darkskins not knowing that it is 21st-century racism …”

Despite the temptation to dive into a heightened discourse how we claim importance and love through appearances while taking advantage of other’s shortcomings and natural traits, it rests with the listeners to evaluate themselves if they are to experience the vastness of love. Subsequently, in “Nails Deep” the poet confronts his spirituality among other matters. Spirituality as it is strictly personal that I wouldn’t know what to say about it and to this end, anyone who listens to the piece can interpret it as it fits. Conversely, the poet seems to be thankful and to prevent any preachy material from me; words such as these are used:

Teach my knees how to bend again
strip my lips (of) the lies woven by (time) …
reduce my grown self to a child …”

The last piece “Misimu” intersperses a classical appreciation (told by the son) with more fragmented, imagistic recollection that deconstructs and unsettles the tales of a narrative loop. The poet’s memories of his childhood are tangible and real but at the same time incomprehensible and distant to him: “why I do this ni mystery.” Language, words, and performance are limiting. The person matha (mother), in particular, is loaded with strength and perseverance:

kuraisiwa in a family matha ni beshte ya God huwezi ngoja hiyo friendship ivunjike
looking back hizi ndoto ni toddlers kwa mkono ya life
poetry haina pesa, matha aliniambia nikiwa docky ntawacha kutarmac
niende chuo nipate degree baada ya matha kunipea diploma
masomo ni ngumu lakini si kuliko yenye matha amepitia …”

The inability of words to completely thank the mother brings to light those people we can never appreciate enough, those that have supported us through trials, successes, and failures. To admit they are rare would be an understatement and this is why “mother” remains the beacon of hope, for we cannot marvel enough at her godlike presence.
Stories in Gufy’s pieces offers as a counterpoint to try once more to grasp the extent of our lives, what we have, what we hope for, what we ought to think about, and what we hope to correct. It must be understood that this constructed view is self-consciously analytical and at the same time deeply emotionally engaged in his, highly genuine mind’s eye.

Grab your copy if you haven’t.

Distances

Sometimes we scurry places in the hope of finding
freedom and shape it into things we used to know

old memories speeding like wolves on a wild chase
remind us if we could find love, all distances would disappear

that bottle of beer, the cup of coffee – encased with regrets
and a tinge of uncertainty plunders our foundations, to drown us

Once we learn we cannot travel without clutching at someone
you realize different places are littered with hope as a blur.

For nothing says goodbye like staring out in a hot afternoon
only to notice the tiny swing of an idle hammock. It’s rumored

that alarm sounds reminds us why we have to keep moving so our
alienation tapers towards happiness enameled with simple gestures

Yet something immigrates in our bodies for respite
short pleasures prevail, all distances are subverted like a returning ocean.

© Eddy Ongili 2016

The Bubble

USE THIS
We sought places, you and I, like theaters for the cheer
The corner seats were enough
To find seconds to weep meticulously
Under the guise of laughter. We laughed and confessed love
For her
And even under the terrible arrest of her eyes
We wouldn’t have expected her ridiculous attempts
At goodbyes

Those clamoring words eager to resurrect when the curtains opened
Or those tendons we snapped craving to witness and taste hope winking
Seductively from her lips
Our eyes galloped from the carnations of her lips
We hoped she found freedom, as a woman
But wanted nothing to do with writing about how
Light beams plastered her face as an artistic expression
Yet all she anticipated was the present, resting legs crossed
In a random posture

When curtains closed, we tripped over cliffs, mimicking crushed hearts, hoping to
Feel the touch of her fingers again
And we’ve been haunted by this itchy desire, flapping across our spines
For when she first left, her stare grazed deep inside us, and
We wouldn’t have known poetry if we didn’t feel the physical tingling feeling in our bodies
Some time ago, our rhythm stalled, hurling her into pillowy spaces
Gentle as
The heart. Yet like the time we spent hiding from love
We learnt to walk away, hoping that someone would say, “Hey, stop!”
And we would’ve swiveled back and landed on their arms
And asked how suffering fits into our desire of enduring it
But
We insisted on going home as if someone was waiting for us
Only for darkness to collapse into our hearts, prolonging the ache

© Eddy Ongili, 2016
Art by Khan Nova Via African Digital Art

Dervish Dancing – Whirling Thunders

Whirling-Dervishes1
When I was the silent song, her grievance, hoisted me on stasis
We marveled at songs, my girl. We waited for the train, its sound, till the swirl
Undid distance, uncoiled our lips into lose ropes and I waited for the first knot
To pattern after a violin around her, a resistant sign of religion as a melody, clouds corked in
bottles, against tides, against whirling thunders, against screeching foot-taps, we held

When I was the silent song, her grievance, hoisted me on stasis
Of ten thousand men limping towards her shrine, howling over her deepest gaze
I bought countenance, spears, courage, shrinks to strike competitors – Oh howlers
But they kept dancing, limping, desiring that they could hold her as a painting
Under such pomposity, she loved another as an artist, such awkward inclination
That rumbled below her that she might recall the warmth of my lips, a nesting maze of passion

When I was the silent song, her grievance, hoisted me on stasis
I fell on my knees when she started counting paintbrushes, its strokes. Ah fireworks, organs, the sex
Pleading sickness, eczema. I hoped to leave her body tired, or wet, depending on the sound her tongue drenched in
I wanted her thirsty or posing for boudoir. I snapped mental pictures whenever. Whenever she sighed.
To admit I craved to survive on her touch alone would make me want to taste her breath

When I was the silent song, her grievance, hoisted me on stasis
I’d have done anything to be normal, to escape the bubble or live long enough to be naïve
I arched arms, falling into her shade, sometimes bosom, erect like a baobab. I wanted all flowers blossoming
through mists, heat, dust, and mud. I wanted a name after surviving stasis, so I could see her free.

© Eddy Ongili 2016

Inspired by franice j. harris Against storm, against glib thunder

When it counts …

I pursue a feeling that my usual desires don’t encounter

A prayer aching for its ending

A song numbed by its chorus

A body improvising theatrical notes

So I could hush an orchestra and be compelled by a strangers eyes

To free myself from the one I have inhabited for a lifetime

 

Yet it feels as if I pin my skin onto other bodies

As if that would make my lamentations amble peacefully in an inverted sky

But I am disfigured by anticipating crossing the threshold of tolerance

Then beauty glitches over my body and each god damned narrative is consumed

By this feeling of emptiness concocting fulfillment which thrives on the scent of fire

Still, before I atrophy, I wonder how it feels to exchange memories for prayers.

 

My mind

My heart

Crumble like china on a rocky surface

Becoming a poem

That makes me want to know how it feels to crawl into oblivion

Or be reduced to the fatality of anticipating a kiss in an afternoon drizzle

 

But the saddest part is

I am a box of matches

An inferno

Possessing a terrible memoir of imploding love

Which when tasked to kill, only paralyzes with imprints of forever

Encased in a concrete box in the heart’s museum of unfulfilled feelings

 

©Eddy Ongili 2016

Insurrection

Once, living as a verse

I leapt across creases of pages

Into books trolled by bristled fingers

 

I was once a man preoccupied with letters

Till the sexual tension bailed out as a folded hand

I read volumes of books, letters, more letters, and poems

And when God’s turn came, I found his works spilling all over

 

So I held him like a dandelion while I walked across a ridge

As I annihilated my vocals humming and masturbating an incipient disease

of the soul. I cross-checked his works while teetering across sharp valleys

 

Then God decreed let there be trees, and I chocked on forests

I wouldn’t attempt to battle a twig involved in intercrural sex with a leaf

if I didn’t know it represented a  violin.

 

So frequently, a disgruntled melody interrupts a part of my heart

That wants nothing to do with love, so often

palms have turned into ballistics, waving while pulling the trigger

Gawking at cartridges relishing at the thump of fire and soreness

 

But so often all these are also works of omission, I find myself

Winking, toasting, rubbing loins, chasing forlorn – Away

So as to strap the gale of restraint

But poetry worn-out of its whore-phase abandoned me

Only returning like a Japanese sex-toy, cunt!

While I disavow any abandonment of the arts I had undertaken

 

There is something effortless in poetry that infuriates me

How it looks like, how it sounds … that there is

A pattern, a revolt, conformity …

However, there is a nakedness that captivates me

Since

It was poetry that taught me that if a man needed a moment

He must stand at the same place till he captures or turns into it.

© Eddy Ongili 2016