Editorial Drumbeat– Professor Wanjohi wa Makhoka is a Literary arts exprimentalist, a word scientist and Creative Intellectual.The poet erect is with verbal dexterity and the rhythm in his verses resonates with the heartbeat of a reader like the Africa djembe out there in the savannah. The Mwalimu Poet is born, washed, watered and fed in and by words. He is a kind of word himself. Wanjohi is a teacher, a writer, translator (liminal midwife), an African griot and a critic whose metaphoric machete cuts through Conscience like a canoe slicing the sky, stirring sheer poetic pain, causing celestial shocks to breach the marrow of ghosts of those departed via Chaos of dark spaces of our time . In one of his poem, Makokha pays tribute to the great African Writer who was lost with those who perished in the WestGate Terror Attack in Nairobi recently – the Ghanaian sage Kofi Awoonor. May Kofi rest peacefully in his coffin as words seek retribution for him! Miombo is humbled by the gesture given by mwalimu (teacher) Wanjohi wa Makhoka to contribute to this humble creative journal even at this nascent stage of its existence.
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THE WESTGATE SEQUENCE
(In memory of the 2013 West gate Mall Terror Attack in Nairobi)
The Eloquence of Silence…
This mall speaks to its skeletons
In tones akin to human whispers
It speaks to its broken windows
Like the frosty wind hugging us
No sentences truly, capture Death
Be it through philosophy, or poetry
Yet stories arrested are, here here
In the sentences of a terror attack
Sentences written in the alphabet
Of mall walls surrounding silences
The windows without their panes
Are red graffiti of lives shhh shhhed
Cruelly as if by a divine punctuation,
Tired of sentences without meaning
Why sentence a whole mall to death
Taking the TV hostage for four days?
Why do this amid the Premier League
Is your terror superior to our Arsenal?
The mall speaks silence, imitating hermits
As the city exiles itself, to soccer asylums!
When the mall is rebuilt and thus healed
It may stop its soliloquy, and only then…
Shall the phantoms of Westgate re-enact
The ugly bullet dance they danced here…
And the rat-ataa-ataats shall kill all football
With eloquent minutes of silence, in all of us…
The Key is the River
Muslim urchins of our city miss
Making the mandatory ablution
New teargas odor off their hair
Completes their ungodly state
Sentries deny them entire entry
Into many a mosque nowadays
“Bathe in a river of Allah like us”
Doves, advise the mob of urchins
“Each inch of your skin is unclean,
Each orifice, a bird of sky can see”
These poor witnesses truly miss
Their river of ablution, now red…
Who witnessed the terrorist attack?
Who filled Nairobi River with blood?
The military, calls out for witnesses
From a minaret as white as diatomite….
The Westgate Inquiry
Shall we write about Westgate?
Shall we write about this siege?
Or shall we rather, forget it fully?
Teach me the grammar of Terror
Or let Westgate die as has Truth….
At a risk of being labeled a terrorist
In a land of questions minus answers,
A poet throws these explosive queries
Toward all battle-tanks, smoke, screens:
Action! Accra! Moqadicio! Attack! Nairobi.
The queries roar, soar swiftly in our sky,
Like land to surface missile: fire…aaam!
Like lost and found confessions to Allah!
Like moan of a bleeding poet, slain, dying,
Like…these mule copters, imitating, battle….
Abruptly, the queries turn question marks!
Wallahi! maswali sasa ni alama za viulizo*
Behold them drizzling down, in drip-drop!
Behold them drizzle-drizzle, drip-drip-drop!
And as the siege at Westgate, tick-tocks on,
when did queries become military targets?
As the siege of Westgate, tiiick-toocks on,
how did answers become military targets?!
As the Siege of Westgate, tick-tick-tocks,
when did Truth become a military target….
Horizons of Faith
Prof Makhoka reading poetry at the grave of the great Irish Poet Oscar Wilde.
Behold, this area where all belong.
Isn’t it an area quite familiar to us?
The area is near and it is our home
It is the home where souls feel safe
Where we sleep in peace eternally
A sleep that levelises humankind
Humankind claims, name it kismet
Claims, that many a time conflict…
Claims and conflict, knots we knot
To map out this area we each trust
Call this area the borough of faiths
Piece clues faithfully like in a jigsaw
And in the labyrinthine puzzlement
Of the Westgate aftermath, witness
That blood: be it Infidel or Islamic,
Crimson as horizons at twilight…is…
Each time a faith kills us in its name,
Or rather, when we kill it in its name…
The Sound of the Twilight.
The lazy waves…of this easterly ocean
reveal not secrets hidden in this ocean
When they rise, meekly resisting winds
Blowing like slaves buried in this ocean…
Souls that linger, trapped in this cemetery
Souls that inhabit the depths of this ocean
The winds soar now like new verses of Rumi
Lifting mangroves up as hands of this ocean
Behold this dance that piously masquerades
many slave narratives that haunt this ocean
An albatross disturbs the swirling mangroves
Taking off, a widening gyre above this ocean
Our eyes locked, linked by verses of scriptures
this moment of thought in us all by this ocean
Mystics, mysteries, memories, and lost stories
See them unburied from the womb of this ocean
A canoe of thought slices the water that is a sky
of all those skeletons at the base of this ocean
This sky now asunder is the window of hope
To skeletons now awaken abottom this ocean
Let spiritual couplets of Jalal Muhammad Rumi
Swirl all matters now! Typhoon up this ocean!
Swirling and swirling, widening…gyre after gyre
Let all matter here swirl the waters of this ocean
And like arms stretched from earth to the heaven
Let all mysteries be revealed from the Indian ocean
We shall sit under coconut trees staring high above
Waiting for Qiyama to descend from this risen ocean
When the swirling skeletons of slaves of this ocean
Finally reach Him as evaporated waters of this ocean,
Afrika, we shall lift your heavy memories of this ocean
And bury them in history texts as vast as Atlantic ocean.
Wanjohi wa Makokha– is the sobriquet of Kenyan public intellectual JKS Makokha who is based at the Department of Literature and Institute of African Studies in Kenyatta University. Born in 1979 in Nairobi, raised in Eldoret and Bungoma, the poet has been shaped by various aspects of Kenyan cultures and environments. He obtained his elementary and secondary education from Muslim, Christian and Public schools. He holds tertiary papers from Kenyatta University, University of Leipzig and Free University of Berlin. This cross-cultural educational experience influences his vision and craft as an artist. The experience is sharpened by his private and public life that have seen him travel widely across Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Tanganyika, South Africa and Western Europe. He is the co-editor of several volumes of essays in literary criticism and theory such as: Reading Contemporary African Literatures: Critical Perspectives (Amsterdam/New York, 2013); Border-Crossings: Narrative and Demarcation in Postcolonial Literatures (Heidelberg, 2012); Style in African Literatures (Amsterdam, 2012), and East African Literatures (Berlin, 2011) among others. His poetry has been published in the Atonal Poetry Review, African Writing, The Journal of New Poetry, Postcolonial Text, Stylus Poetry Journal and Kwani? 7. Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse published by Langaa in 2010 is his debut book of verse. It revolves around the Kenya Election Crisis 2007-2008 and carries a foreword by the respected Kenyan poetess and scholar, Professor Micere Mugo.