Oil on Water

•January 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

               “We have arrived,” a soft voice woke me up as a soft hand shook me gently.

Startled and still dazed from my deep nap, I turned around to put a face to the voice.  Embarrassed I quickly looked away when my eyes met her heavily kohl lined doe eyes.  I had noticed her when we had stopped for lunch. 

I had seen her earlier as she was heading to the washrooms, I couldn’t help it but stare at her buttocks that were hugged in a tight fitting pair of jeans.  She had taken slow, lazy, deliberate steps, her hips moving sensually.   Just as her eyes her lips were heavily painted dark.  My eyes had slowly moved from her face.  Her big breasts spilt out of her white bra that was visible through her see-through blouse.

I had watched her walking to the food counter.  As she had leaned over to choose from the varieties of foods being sold, her see-through top rode up revealing her skin and a few strands of shanga.  The colourful waist beads dancing seductively at me.

Remembering that she was at least twenty years younger than me, I had quickly looked away sighing both in excitement and sadness at the attires the young ones wore these days.  As I sat for my lunch I couldn’t help it but steal quick glances.  She had probably caught me looking at her. 

            “Are you from here?”  Her soft spoken voice interrupted my remembrance of our earlier encounter.

            “No,” I mumbled, “I just came to sell produce.”

            “So you are a farmer?” she asked as she removed her hand luggage from the luggage compartment.  Again her see-through blouse rode up, revealing some skin. 

Is she trying to kill an old man, I thought with a heavy sigh then quickly turned away.  She waited as the bus boys unloaded my matenga full of fruits and vegetables from the carrier.

            “So where are you heading to?”

            “I was thinking of going to the market place,” I replied, this time with some confidence.

            “You want to go to Kariakoo now?  It’s late!  You won’t find anybody there!”  She laughed heartedly, “where are you going to stay?”

            “Well, I was hoping to get a room in Kariakoo.”

            “Come with me.  It’s late now.”

I had been warned that city people were conniving.  She absolutely couldn’t be one of them.  Conniving people were rude and unkind.  She had woken me up and offered to help me – that is a sure sign of kindness, right?  Lamely I tagged behind, watching her as she hailed a truck, negotiated the fare and then instructed the driver were to take us.

            “Seven thousand,” she repeated what the driver had said once the truck had stopped.

            “Huh?”  I mumbled unintelligently.

            “The fare!  The truck is not free, you know.”

            “Oh yes!” I replied as I quickly reached for me wallet.  Feeling the driver’s eyes on me, I quickly turned around as I didn’t want him to see where I had hidden my wallet.  I had been warned that city people were quite fast too.

The driver with his assistant quickly unloaded our luggage and drove away.  She called two boys who were outside a nearby shop and asked them to carry the heavy luggage inside.

            “Two thousand,” she said with her right palm opened up.

            “For what?”  I asked my face full of bewilderment.

            “For the boys who helped you with your matenga!  You should be glad I’m showing you the ropes.”

            “Oh, of course,” mumbling had become my thing then.

            “Come, you look very tired,” she held me by the hand, pulling me.  I noticed the expression on her face soften with concern and her eyes reflected a more gentle light.

            “My bones are not as strong as they used to be,” I laughed lightly

            “It was quite a long trip” she replied as she lightly touched my arm, sending sparks of warm excitement down my old spine, “why don’t you rest then I will come fetch you for dinner.”

Though it was late evening, it was scotching hot when we left our rooms for dinner, suggesting that we go to a nearby pub.  This time she was wearing a short, tight fitting dress.  Her round buttocks shook seductively as she walked.  I couldn’t help it but stare at her.  Walking lazily, with an equally lazy but careless gesture, she shooed away the mosquitoes that were already congesting the air.  Even so, every now and then, one would land somewhere on her and she would swat it away furiously.  So many times I had wanted to swat the mosquitoes for her, but I had to behave myself.

Desperately wanting to divert my attention from her, I drunk every bottle of beer that was brought to me, as looking at her just intoxicated me. Her short dress rode up her thighs revealing naked thighs which seemed to be taunting me.  Wishing I hadn’t met her, I silently wondered how girls were allowed to walk like this in the city.  Suddenly the room seemed to swirl and spin.

The sound of prayers from a church nearby woke me up.  Quickly I got up and studied my surroundings.  I was back in my room though I couldn’t remember how I got there.  Remembering the money I had with me, I quickly reached for my wallet in the special hiding place.  Maybe she had kept it for me since I got so drunk last night, I thought.

Quickly I rushed to the receptionist, enquiring about her, describing her fretfully.

            “I don’t know her name.  But we came in together after the boys brought in my matenga. ”

            “What matenga, mzee?  Were they taken to your room?”

            “They are inside, in the back!”  I stammered nervously, pointing to the back.

            “We never keep anything that belongs to the customers there, mzee.”

            “They must be there!” I screamed hysterically.  “They took them there!”

           “Mzee, we do not keep anything there!”

           “So here are my produce?  Where she is she?”

           “I am afraid I can not help you, mzee !”

           “What do I do?  How do I ind her?”

           “I really don’t know how to help you, mzee !”

           “My wallet and my matengaWohii!  I have been robbed!”  I screamed having finally understood her.

            “Your bill, mzee?  You haven’t settled it.”


Madiba Haiku

•December 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Magical forgiving smile

That embraced the enemy

Thank you, tata!

Lala salama, Baba!

•December 6, 2013 • 2 Comments

The invincible,

The unconquerable,

The unbeatable,

The unassailable,

The impregnable,

The invulnerable,

The unsurpassable,

The unshakeable,

The indefatigable,

The indomitable Madiba!


They tried to bend you but you were unyielding,

They tried to crush you but you were unbending,

They tried to shake you but you were unflinching,

The stout-hearted,

The lionhearted,

The strong-willed,

The strong-minded,

The determined.


Chained you freed us


Your light will shine on

Your rainbow will live on

Your Madiba magic will stay on

Forever we will celebrate your life

Forever we will celebrate you

Fearless and dauntless

The courageous Madiba!


The gentle,

The merciful,

The compassionate,

The humane,

The benevolent,

The lenient,

The forbearing,

The sympathetic,

The magnanimous,

The forgiving Madiba!


We are okay now tata

We have crossed over

You can go now baba


Go son of Azania

Go son of Africa

Go son of the soil


Hambe khale, tata Madiba!

Lala salama, baba Rolihlahla Mandela!

The Bereaved

•December 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Pesa hazitoshi,” he announced as he paged through the contribution book as if hoping numbers would miraculously appear from the pages.

I looked at blankly at him as he buttoned the only remaining button on his moth eaten Sunday jacket.  He had given him that jacket when we got married.  He had bought it from the second hand hawkers in the city.  He would not come to the wedding without something new to wear, he had explained to me.

“We need more money to feed the mourners,” he added as he cleared his throat and then tugged at his graying beard, showing the patchwork on the elbow of his jacket.

I closed my eyes.  I was too tired to think.  Slowly I lifted my hands to my temples and started rubbing away the pounding of a hundred drums in my head.

With the creased corner of my tattered kanga I started wiping away tears that had started streaming again.  Opening my eyes, slowly I looked up and my eyes hit the gapping hole on the roof.  The hole he had been hoping to fix after the harvests.   The hole that will probably never get fixed now.  Unless I take Bakari off school and he helps with the farming.  Or should I let Ashura get married so the bride price helps?

In the room full of kanga and baibui cladded mourning women, my eyes found the twins, Jamal and Jamila, whose heads were on their sister’s lap. The sight of them crouched there like that in the corner of the room, with tears glistening their faces, made my throat tighten up.

I turned away and tried to find something to occupy himself with, attempting to block out the twins’ sniffling but my eyes fell on empty sacks that had some rice, flour and beans some three days ago.  The drums that had cooking oil and sugar were also empty.  This was food that we had hoped, would have kept us going for a month.  Two hens were now pecking at the last grains stuck in the weaves of the sacks.  Painfully I turned away and my eyes then fell on his photograph that was carefully placed on a soda crate.  The six years old photograph that was adorned with plastic flowers and had now become the focal point of the room.  He had wanted Bakari to finish school and he would never have let Ashura get married so young.   I groaned as I closed my eyes again.

Mama mfiwa!” He called out, interrupting my despairing thoughts.  “Mama widower,” he repeated again when I did not answer.

Slowly I lifted my head and looked up.  His cataract eyes looked down at me with an empty gaze.

“More people are visiting you.  What are you going to feed them?  We still have three days to the burial and these people will have to eat.  Do you have anything we can sell?  Maybe the two cows?”


•July 4, 2012 • 3 Comments

I was only twelve when I had my first child. I remember when she was conceived. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the taste is as real and bitter as the left over burnt makande I had for breakfast. He had seen just how badly I wanted to do well and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me do well, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not do well at all.

I knew how hard my parents worked to get me there. My sisters before me never had this opportunity, so I could not dare disappoint my parents. The bull that my sister had gotten for her bride price had been sold to make sure I was there. So realIy, how could I dare disappoint my parents.

I didn’t do well as he had promised. Infact I didn’t do well at all and I was already four months pregnant when I went to check my exams results. I didn’t only just do well, but I had F in most subjects. With my head hang down, I slowly walked my nauseating self back home to face my bull-less parents, as I remembered the evening he had bent me over the only desk in the classroom. With my school skirt bunched around my waist and his trousers down his knees. How could I forget that evening. The same evening my father had beat me black and blue me for getting home late and failing to get hay for his goats.

My father was not pleased when he learnt about my pregnancy. He had hoped that with education under my belt I would be the saviour of the family. The cattle pen without his once priced bull made him even more upset. I didn’t wait for his wrath to fall on me. Instead I had ran to my aunt’s that evening.

My aunt could not afford to feed an extra mouth for long – an extra mouth that ate for three and not even two and was unemployed. After I had had my baby I then had to leave it behind with my aunt and went away to earn its keep.

I was only fourteen when I had my second child. I remember when this one was also conceived. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the feel is as real and bitter as the pain in my peeling calloused feet He had seen just how badly I wanted more and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me get more, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not get anything at all.

Mama had gone to a twelve weeks spiritual renewal retreat in Rwanda, leaving me at home alone with Baba. I had just finished serving him food – samaki wa kupaka, maharagwe ya nazi, rice, kachumbari and a pawpaw and mango fruit salad. I was thinking of the ukoko of the rice I had just served, that I was going to have for lunch in the kitchen yard as I was placing the pitcher of water on the dining table. I had smiled sadly as I remembered how Mama had told me that if I was going to waste any food with getting it burnt then I should eat it. As if it was my fault, her pots burnt food so badly.

I didn’t complain about the burnt crusts that were always my meals or the hard work that had me working until one in the morning and had me awake at four every day. I didn’t complain since with the salary I got that was always accompanied with curses had my daughter eating better than most in the village.

That afternoon Baba had told me to forget the ukoko and he had made me sit on the dining table. I remember how I had shaken as I had sat myself down. I remember how I had wolfed down the food and how Baba had smiled as he had watched me. I could not believe my luck when I went to the kitchen yard and saved the rice crust that I was going to have for lunch, for dinner.

For dinner, Baba again made me sit with him and have ugali, kisamvu cha karanga, dagaa and a pineapple and mango fruit salad. The next day for breakfast I actually had bread with jam instead of left over ukoko and black tea. I actually had buttered bread with jam, fried eggs and the tea had milk! That day I had hummed happily as I went around my chores. On the third day, Baba had moved me from the hard and cold kitchen floor to his bed.

As weeks went by, I started noticing my weight gain and I believed it was the food. I liked my new body and Baba loved the ‘love handles’ as he called them and so I had kept on wolfing down the food as my appetite grew more each day. Juma, the muuza genge down the street even commented that I had a glow.

I didn’t get more as he had promised, but he had given me more alright. Mama had thrown me out like a dog the morning she caught me throwing up. She had been looking at me suspiciously eyeing my bulging frame. I should have taken her new quiet watchful demur as a cue to watch myself and be more careful. But I had gotten comfortable and familiar, enjoying the stolen moments and the chips mayai, mishikaki and Heineken that were smuggled into the kitchen yard every evening, so I won’t eat dried up ukoko for dinner. I should have but I did not. How could I forget that morning. The same morning Mama had beat me black and blue after he found a plastic bag by the dhobi sink with empty cans of Heineken.

Onto the kerb I was kicked as I slowly walked my nauseating self to nowhere. After a week of sleeping at the market place, I decided to go back home. Home to my aunt. My aunt could not understand why I was back home while I should be in the city earning a living.

“Do you think taking care of your bastard is cheap?” she had angrily growl at me as she tightened a brand new khanga around a fatter and bigger stomach.    Her right always with a bottle of beer, instead of chibuku, a local brew she used to drink wherever she had some money to spare then.  So immediately after I had had my second born, I went back to the city.

I was only sixteen when I had my third child. I remember when this one was also conceived too. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the smell is as real and strong as what is being emission of my tired body that has not seen water for three days now He had seen just how badly I wanted some and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me get some, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not get anything at all.

I had been going there for weeks, everyday I would wait under the mango tree. Many gave up and left, but I could not afford to. Everyday I saw him, walking into the building carrying a big leather briefcase. Everyday he would wear a khaki Kaunda suit.

One day as he saw me staring at him, as he was ordering vitumbua from mama ntilie under the tree. He told the lady to also give me two of the savoury meat fritters. The next day he had asked me I was there. The following day made a comment about me still being there. The fourth day he made a joke about giving me a guarding post as I was always there. The fifth day he called me into his office.  Recruitments, the signage outside his door read.   After taking some tea silently that his secretary had made us, that washed down some vitumbua and maandazi, I had then asked him if he had received my applications.

“I receive hundreds of applications daily,” he had replied with an air of importamce as he eyed a dust covered lot by the left side of his work station.

He then promised me to give me top priority. He didn’t attend to my applications but he had moved me to a bigger and nicer chumba. A room he frequented daily – with mishikaki and chips, Heineken, Konyagi and sometimes Amarula too. I enjoyed not working and having a man taking care of me. All I had to do was look beautiful for him. My complexion was now six shades lighter than I was naturally and my hair longer and silkier. I even had two cellphones – a Nokia and a Samsung. The remaining ‘change’ from my saloon trips, I sent home to my aunt. After a bout of morning sickness started he threw me out of the room and onto the kerb and told me I would bring trouble to his career and his family.

She Walks

•March 8, 2012 • 2 Comments

Apologies. This piece has been removed as it is to be published.   Watch this space for the new anthology.

Happy women’s day!


It Will Get Better

•March 8, 2012 • 1 Comment

Apologies. This piece has been removed as it is to be published.   Watch this space for the new anthology.

Happy women’s day!