Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunshine & Rain // Jua & Mvua -- March 20, 2012

THE ASTRONOMICAL EVENT//Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein

 The sun conspires
With the earth
Twice a year
Teaching the world
An equality lesson:
It rises exactly
in the east,
and sets exactly
 in the west,
Agreeing with earth
To align perfectly,
Twelve hour days
For everyone on
This massive planet.
Not a day,
Really, but a
single moment when
sun and earth
agree to meet.

Myths are made
Of our sun’s
Cosmic, shining exactitude.
The fierce bull
Equals fearful man.
That bearded woman
Is loved again.
Your raging husband
Writes a poem.
The fragile egg
stands upright without
cracking, spilling, breaking.

A single hour
When the earth
Is tilted neither
Left nor right.
A single hour
When the child
And mother both
Wail for milk.
A single hour
When the boy
And the man
Both need strength
To kill the
Monster of injustice
Lurking, lunging clockwise.
A single hour
When suicidal girls
Hesitate to jump
A single hour
When the scream

Reverses again inward.
A single hour
When black boys
Are not feared.
(When black boys
Are not killed
For being feared.)
A single hour
When women walk
Alongside men without
Panic or passion.
A single hour
When the king
And the leper
Are fused singing
A single hour
When hope and
History do rhyme.

The thing is,
It’s spectacularly astronomical
Lasting an hour
At most, passing
Through shared skies
With fleeting pageantry.
It’s a scientific
Truth, but not
A social one
A universal secret
But not ours
To keep now
In our unruly
Days on earth.

Holy hour, holy
Travelling sun passing
Through a school
Of seasons, lessons
Learned or burned
Into cosmic memory
But never action.
Oh earth, Oh
Sun forgive us
This reckless imbalance.
Even stars burst ---- unannounced.
With this hour
Upon us now,
I imagine we
Hold this holy
hour closer still.
Bookended by imperfection,
This single hour:
Mandate, balance, prayer.  


(Last words from Clare and Raja to our last Maneno)
We want to talk about this land, its rain and its sunshine,
We’ve had a few bad moments here but it’s mainly been a fun time.
In a place where things happen, maybe, eventually, sometime,
How come we’ve now reached the end of our own Stone Town movie run time?
Every meeting baraza seating salama greeting however fleeting
A place of Karibu! Welcome! from this person and the next,
Of sullen grumpy service from someone behind a desk,
Of open smiling faces, Africoid and Arabesque,
Except when hidden from public view, a privilege of your sex.
However fleeting salama greeting baraza seating every meeting
So we come to our clan Maneno, to whom we pay our homage,
It’s Kamanda Amanda time , ground control to Major Tom age,
Eleanor, with a spell in her
poems, straight from the heart,
Unanonymous Jerry, oh so very
fine at word play art,
Saidi, we cant hide
from your talent and your smart,
Amir, we need you here,
mzee’s wisdom on life’s chart.
Oh our little spice island!
You are such a nice island!
We love your pilau rice, island
Even living with your mice, island
You really do entice, island
Of life you are a slice.
And so we talk about this land, its sunshine and its rain,
Dear old Zenj, our friend, when will me meet again?
It’s a little too hard to think of this as our final good bye,
So we will make it easy, with just a ..... Tutaonana, baadaye!

On 26-27/1/2001

as we took to the streets
in the outskirts of the Islands
to demonstrate, to show our anger, our pain
our protest to a long unjust rule
to protest the strangling of ballot voice
the voice of many
unarmed as we were
marching through a rough road
towards a smooth road of democracy
to a clean road of justice
along a perfect road to prosperity
with our slogans
the weapon of the weak majority, chanting;
“FALSIFIED, Leave Our Islands Be”
we then heard deafening sounds of guns
bullets flooded around
mass volume of blood was shed
the shock of it;
Bullets and blood in the birth place of peace!
The wounds are still raw
as we are crippled for ever
no sun will shine our days
no rain will wash away our pain
till the day the voice of the innocent is heard
the day the justice will take its lead
but as gloomy as we are, we can’t wait too long
we shall again take to the streets
with our slogans chanting;



No trace of a breeze at the beginning of the week,
The sun pounds down in the middle of the day.
Monday as temperatures rise to a simmer.
Oh glaring bright orb in the middle of the day.
Too hot , too bright that you cannot meet it’s gaze.
Tuesday noon sweat trickles down my back.
I perspire and my clothes go damp and stick to me.
After only a stroll to there and back,
I sweat, and my clothes are wringing wet.
The air is so thick it’s hard to take breath  
I could cut into this air with a knife
and carve it like a piece of cake.
Rumbling darkness gathers throughout the night
Wednesday the oppressive sun beats down yet again.
I feel a slight drizzle on my face from out of nowhere.
Sweat beads upon my brow and dribbles down my leg,
So uncomfortable the days have become.
People daubing the moisture that beads upon their face,
Sweating buckets as they toil beneath this sun.
In the tropics one thing is for sure
When the sun hails down so unforgiving and unkind
Only in shade, in breeze, in rest, comfort will you find
beneath the tropical roiling brazen sun. 


Brilliant sky the billowing clouds soon obscure,
And tall and voluminous they grow quickly before our eyes.
Such clouds darken and spread like a canopy above
The downpour starts with a thunderous cry.
Announcing its arrival with a sudden loud clap,
One should take cover and hunker down somewhere dry
Be it morning waking up to clatter above our heads
Stay inside protected or “Go fast get inside.” 
Take shelter or suffer  heaven’s wrath.
Stand under eaves and wait for the storm to pass.
The rain itself arrives first as a pitter patter
Soon it rushes like vermin over rooftops alas.
A riff of dull notes sent by god so it were,
like drums heralding gods in the skies.
 It beats it pounds, a flash, another thunderclap.
Currents as waterfalls gushing down.
Children play in the torrents plunging so quick
 And in streams flowing through narrow streets of town
Quick rivers flowing along gravity’s path
To finally reach the awaiting sea.
A short time and this tempest too will pass
And the water will be gone and leave us be.
Unforgiving sunshine glares down so warm and so hot.
Steam rises as sunshine meets rain.
Damp erased by the sun’s persistent rays,
unbearably hot without trace of breeze.  

Another Year // Mwaka Nyingine -- February 21, 2012

THE HOURGLASS // Eleanor Griplas

Sitting on the beach, thinking of the now and the “to be”
Plunging my hands into the sand
I cup them and dig spade like into the warmth
My fists become crude vessels clutching an uncontainable cargo
Millions of grains of soft sand are held for an instant
Before they start to cascade, spill out
Slip through and over my fingers,
And If I was to scoop again I couldn’t be sure
to pick up exactly the very same grains that I held before
most of them would be gone, scattered in a sea of lost identity

I try to slow down the torrent, squeezing my fingers tight
But still a steady stream escapes and cannot be stemmed
Of course I am not the first to observe the symbolism
Between the grains in my hands… and the passage of time.
Who coined the phrase -Time is slipping through my fingers ?
An image in my head.  The identical inverted bulbs of an hour glass
measuring distance and speed of a ship, the passage of hours
the boiling of an egg, the regulated trickle of sand
as a dependable and hypnotic measurement of time
As the grains fall, another year is clocked and another passes

Sand gives me a tangible connection with the long gone past
My sand carpet used to be a solid, a rock, a whole
Now the rock has become a blanket of tiny specks, minute particles
Fashioned over time from constant contact between two surfaces
The powder like grains can be felt in every crevice of my fingers
My knuckles, palms, nails, sticking to my skin
It seems like the grains consume me, won’t let go of me
I can’t brush them off completely. I don’t want to
Yet nor can I embrace the sand in my arms and cherish it…
This reminds me a little of you and me and the “can’t do’s”

A thought then occurs, we have our own secret hour glass
The grains in which are seeping, but not quite fast enough.
When the top of the hourglass is empty, you promise me
We will be able to grasp it as one and turn it around together
But for now we stand apart and just watch the sand falling.
We don’t know how long it will take for the top glass to be void.
I am asked for patience, to give gravity more time.
You say, it will be just another year or a few and that
the hourglass must empty, as Newton discovered and then
yes then, it will be our time but not now… another year