Sexploitation, Politics, Anger, God, and Happiness: Poems by Gerald Kithinji (Kenya, 1976)

Richard Kimathi_Churches in AfricaGerald Kithinji (Kenya)

Selections from Whispers at Dawn
. . .
Magic Woman
I am the black magic woman
I feed from the dartboard
served by the wine drunkards
I am the female equivocator
I provoke the male prostitutes
by a lisp of “guinness is good for you!”
I am the adding machine
computing your poverty
by a controlled throw of the dart
I am the ‘mother-in-law’
sucking your slumberous prick
for want of a longer trip
I am the ever-thirsty sleuth
whose eternal furnace
consumes your holy waters
If in any reasonable doubt
follow that last stagger
to the edge of the moonlight
– to the last tango away from the dartboard.
. . .
The talk took a comic turn
adding dry wood to the fire
lit by the sex debate
– or was it the women’s lib
Yes; I think it was that lost battle
now come from the mists of antiquity
through currents of a missionary zeal
to plague the human race
They were not ‘fiddlers on the roof’
nor sexperienced population exploders
but just college infuriates
that must have sexquality – or die!
“What men can do
that women can do
what men can do
let women do”
The lioness roamed the jungle
the zebras rubbed noses
and the birds on the equality twig sung:
“were I an ilk with all her ilk”
And the lights dimmed
leaving only the fireglow
leaving the sons of strife
in clouds of misty speculation
The wind carried no pollen
the flowers refused to bloom
the world stood still
in the wake of a woman’s protest
The world of merit
shed a light on sexpression
but the question persisted
“what if they played hard to get?”
. . .
In Praise of Work
The possibility is there
that I might write
with the poet’s inbuilt inspiration
what comrade time
has reason to portend
Of our aims
I might write
or even our dreams
But our destinations?
Even the Pope’s edict…
I pledge my doubt
Of greater moment
is our faith
in the plough.
Hail plough!
Hail abundance!
. . .
A Pause
On that hot afternoon
even the creatures of heaven
could feel the heat in hell
and paused awhile
to let it pass
But as for me, a wayward son
doomed to labour and toil
there was no pause, no rest
but an eternal longing
an eternal thirst
Had I not been sleepy
I might have witnessed
the comings and goings
of the multitudes
I might have lived!
Hey, birds on the twig
what became of your nests
and your thousand promises
of a thousand nestlings?
I might have witnessed!
Looking back on that day
I see the present through a crack
and I know I have arrived
at the edge of my sanity
at the top of the precipice
Will the heat now abate
and let me fondle the coolness
of the moonlit evening
and let me lick the honey
on my latest fount!
. . .
I have come to take away my Love
I have been thinking about you
all night long;
and re-thinking, asking myself
which is the mid-point
between now and eternity.
And in that one night
I lived three centuries into the past
and three others into the future
(into the ‘dim regions
whence my fathers came’
and into a void
far from my native clime)
And in that one night, too,
I peered deep into your heart
and saw seated there
(as on a pile of loot!)
cupid – silently beckoning…
Ha-ha-ha I have come
to take away my love!
and you whose faces I see
remain invisible to Wanja.
I tried to write in rhyme
of nights I’ve spent awake
weaning my infant love
humming a silent lullaby.
I took my ball-point pen
and jotted down your name
in the space of an hour an’ a half
begging the letters to come.
Every letter I wrote spelt love
and every pause, a prayer
that those that love
should rhyme in love.
Richard Kimathi_mixed media on canvas_The Kiss_2012The Couple_Motherly Love_by Richard Kimathi_painter from Kenya_born 1971
Listen to the deafening silence
of the politician
Behold the benevolence
of this native tyrant
Listen to the transcendental claptrap
of the lonely pauper
Endure the ordeal of change
and the quintessential shock
Beyond freedom and dignity
aspiration and accomplishment
and remember your kinsmen
dancing on a volcano.
. . .
My Ballot Paper
I have long waited
this sunny day
to chide myself
Should I cast for this clown
who with dripping mouth
sang his electorate his ambitions?
Or this home-made angel
who with wings of kites
would myrrh his disciples?
And then again I wonder
should the heavens rock
who will restrain the storm?
So I take the little ballot
and with raging words
in verse expend my anguish.
. . .
The Candidates
They promised us
all manner of pleasant solace
as this manifesto witnesseth;
and to show our reliance
we implored them to denounce
older forms of dishonesty
with charity appreciable by view.
They and each of them
and all their ilk
swore to buy our support
in gross and in detail
and so on and so forth
mutatis mutandis
per omnia saecula saeculorum!!
But we were lowly natives
and matched with local casuistry
and various verbal falsehoods
what code of necromancy
would misfortunes forestall!
Nefarious candidates
the time has come:
purge your consciences!
Soldiers in Pyjamas by Richard Kimathi_painter from Kenya_born 1971
I hate your wife – capitalism
I hate your daughter – socialism
I also detest their suitors –
fascism, militarism, nazism
and even communism!
I clung, yes, clung
to that alien stupor
sapped that suave subastral quintessence
that makes us
and seldom
And I woke up
as familiars quirked,
“He will bite them,
these racists.”

Not my Continent
Do not deride me
Do not mistake my identity
Do not kill my image
You ask me to drive you
to the cocktail in a Benz
You ask me to fly you to Addis
My friend, you’ve got me wrong
Put the cart before the horse
Want me to run before I can walk
If you want me you take me as I am
Not fragments of my torn mouldings
Not imitations of my constitution
Or else leave me alone
I have admirers enough
I have my continent to defend
Would you I sold my self
to the fullest coffer
Would you gnaw at my existence
I will not ration my inherited pride
I will not solicit your return
I will not wail your departure
Take your gifts away
They smack of blackmail
They smell of betrayal
I want nothing from you
And nothing will I take
Save this: Leave my continent!
. . .
And anger
is a friend
that the oppressed
must seize –
a purgative drug
to cleanse and preserve
the knowledge
and indignation
with which they affront
the excesses of apartheid.
Come, behold the scars
that those who angered
seized, arms outstretched
their spears flaming!
And you who dither
de-ice your souls
with flames of anger:
and unreason
will succumb
to reason.
Hail, vanguard
of our freedom. Hail!
. . .
The Palm Tree
We had fought and won
the internecine war;
The foreigners had demarcated
their spoils on our land:
but our spirit of struggle
our thirst for freedom –
kept burning within our hearts.
Our vow and determination
to recapture our terre
to tender our palm tree –
this, too, kept burning
with rage and vengeance.
Our thoughts no longer hazy
Our deeds no longer wavy:
but studied and firm
our men advanced sure of foot.
Vengeance is ours
(and not the Lord’s!)
For we know, liberated,
even here
all manner of genius
may grow…
turning pages of transformation
from centuries of silent mutation
to an eternity of unqualified progress.
Where the wheels of oppression
have finally ground to a halt
There shall be found
the masses that struggle!
. . .
A Dream
None dare call it a dream
to be born and to die
to walk to the market
with a bag empty
and back home
with the bag full
to take cattle to the river
to take calves to the slaughter
None dare call it wisdom
to laugh and to cry
to mourn and to sigh
to be able to reap
what one has sown
to slaughter the ram
to feed their offspring
They die in the evening
they rise in the morning
they live in the day
Each life confirms a death
each death promises a life
and I watch these at my window
. . .
A God
While you are catholic
And I am protestant
We shall remain slaves
Let us shed christianity
And together
Cultivate the African God
Let us learn the creed
That says
Black is Beautiful…
And believe it.
. . .
if ever you be happy
let it be
for things done
dreams come true
possibilities realised
Let it be
for aspirations attained
ambitions accomplished
extremities fathomed
Let it be
for misfortunes overcome
wrongs righted
life well spent
But above all else
let it be
for love bestowed
For these
dear friends
we longed
and lived
to miss.
. . .
The Dreamers
Let us dream
dream our dream
lying here
loving here
Our hearts naked
stripped bare
telling tales
dreaming our naked truth.
Our nakedness
My ego
Perhaps boozing
oozing with hatred
with love
with child.
A sore on foot
on breast
on lip
Like dream – love dream
bending, lame…
like nose
like tick.
thick blood
sticky, haunting –
like ghost
like dream
like fairies
. . .
Let’s rest here
under this shade
of ignorance
it is so cool
and so empty
there is only you
and me
and our host
Come, let’s quick
to the shade
lest, exposed,
we become wise
and waste ourselves
on things philosophic
psychologic, pathologic…
There, under the shade,
there is no literature
no law, nor art
no science of deceit
no poetry, music or life:
just ignorance and ourselves
Just ignorance and ourselves
just ignorance
I came out here
to record nature
but found nature
had herself recorded
in greater detail
and better form:
‘Nature has done her part –
Do thou but thine!’
. . .

The above poems from Whispers at Dawn were composed while Gerald Kithinji attended university, and were published in 1976 by East African Literature Bureau (Dar es Salaam / Kampala / Nairobi). The poet’s Dedication at that time read as follows:
Dedicated to those whose imagination fired my own; whose beauties yearned for recognition; whose hearts overflowed with warmth; whose interest laid bare my secrets; whose magic still conjures my dreams.
. . .
Gerald Kithinji grew up along the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, about 250 kilometres from Nairobi. He speaks Kimeru (his natal Kenyan language), and has expanded his reading to include books in French and Portuguese. He has continued to write over the past several decades, but he concentrates now on collections of short stories. Recent titles (2014 and 2015) have included: Hear Me Angry God, Kiss the Handcuffs, Pastor X, Set Her Free, and Masai Mara Adventures with Olê Ntutu. He writes adult fiction as well as children’s books.
In a February 2015 interview Mr. Kithinji was asked What inspires you to get out of bed each day? And his reply: Unfinished business – and that means writing.

. . .

Images: Richard Kimathi (born 1971, Kenya): recent works in mixed media on canvas: “Churches in Africa”, “The Kiss”, “The Couple: Motherly Love”, and “Soldiers in Pyjamas”.

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