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
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 t
hey 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
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
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 awuorez.wordpress.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR