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Awuor Onguru

Nairobi, Kenya

International School of Kenya




When buying kangas at markiti: where the dust settles in your shoes

like rain coming home, where sellers of flowers and secondhand

of hairnets and jumpsuits for babies, of cooking oil and sour mangoes

bombard you with come here. You will avoid the policemen who will

try to tow your car, you will hold the hands of your children as you

imagine them stolen away in the hot, wet sun

You will choose the fabrics that will make your dark skin

beautiful. You will want to show ‘em what you got

when you want your dress to be made from thread like


                make sure to keep your mouth shut.

               You may know how to speak in tongues

               English speakers are not welcome at markiti



       as I leave the house to come to America my mother says “Watch out for policemen.” And

for the first time, it occurs to me that the colour of my skin

is dangerous



         I tell my people my name.

         They gawk in admiration.

         my name is my legacy,

         A testament to the time

         When the world jump started

The amethyst moon was rising in the clean Nairobi night

         And through the window, my mother said she saw God.

         she who was born at midnight,

         Where time is still.

         To be born at midnight is God’s blessing




so I wonder why

they look at me

like I don’t belong


is it that thick, earthy sound of the Luo woman?

the sound of nyar Iro, who walks without apology?




At markiti, I am whole. Those harsh sounds are poetry to me.

the rushing of people is water against my fingertips.

The feeling of market welcomes me,

         makes me  clean



Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in Africa

She woke up to the sound of the golden horizon, and saw the future of a strong continent

The whole world sang her footsteps, and she was happy

Yet she still dreamed of a better place

One where they would accept her heart

One where she could kiss the ocean and the sun, in tandem

Every day, she prayed to God that he would lift her up over the mountaintops,

and deliver her

to her promised land




Mama, (!)


        I forgot to say I love you when I said goodbye.

I just shut the door, and left



What does your name mean?

and I wonder how to tell them that

my name dances on rooftops, and flips onto tables

my name dances in church, on the tongues of prophets

that I once set my name loose. It ran all the way into town and stole every

conversation and refused to give them back that my name is rain,

and sky and sand and moon that

           that it cannot be folded, into a single meaning



IX: Self Portrait of a girl, made of fire


         I’m caramel, and lace.



            open and shut, an empty window I’m

            a crusade of confetti, and a church hymnal

I’m tying the sun,

like a whistle,

on my belt loops


I’m teaching the moonlight to dance the tango

I, am


and flow, into the ocean. I’m blue

like early morning glass, like dew on the tips of grass reaching

upwards into the everlasting sky.

A Persian cat. A Mongoose. Was and is, and more to come.

An antique typewriter, a set of monkey bars.

Abstruse. Holding a golden apple, and stepping in puddles

made of quicksand, of gold. There is no cage that can hold me. Not your clumsy attempt

To mince me into something bland and palatable. To squish me into your African pet.

I am the broken dreamer’s solace.

The city’s grand return. The queen’s glittering jewel: the King’s speech.

Quickly, I tumble into the mouths of the masses, and I sing a song of greatness


This poem takes the reader through an empowering journey where the speaker struggles with her identity and ultimately learns to be proud of who she is. So wholesome, with its moments of introspection, of divulging one’s self to the world.


Awuor Onguru is from Nairobi, Kenya, where she is also a rising Senior year (Class of 2020) at the International School of Kenya. Awuor enjoys viewing her work most through her mother’s WhatsApp broadcasts. Her favorite pastimes include writing, cooking and thinking about cooking. You can visit her at

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