while walking in my darkness, I woke, eyewoke

Little Roll

Little roll
Little roll, sitting by my side
Size of my fist when I’m sat down
And when my hands are held high
You pretend to hide

Little roll
So your friends and family moved in
I have your brothers on my thighs
Your sisters on my arms
And I believe that’s your father on my chin

Little roll
Now you’re not so little anymore
You’re bigger and so much bolder
I’ve given up on hiding you
Like I tried so hard to before

Little roll
Does it still make sense to call you that?
You’re on my body, you’re in my head
You’re in their mouths too now
Except they call you fat

Little roll
I guess you came to stay
You’re now a part of me
You fit, so don’t listen to what they say
Because, little roll, I love you anyway


Thank You

When you came into my life, the sun was out
I couldn’t see it on the second floor room
Head high, nose turned, I stood short and stout
My bright yellow sweater standing out in the musty library gloom

You met with an amused smirk
Every word I loudly spoke
In attempt to outsmart, out-edge, to out-quirk
In attempt to conversation provoke

I called you basic, you were dull
And that was honestly, completely true
But you were the simple gentle lull
That would pull me to shore when in the eye of the storm

You taught me words like YOLO
Like, sho, like it’s said swag, not swagger
And I taught you words like Oslo
And made you listen to the likes of Mick Jagger

You showed me that people liked to be the same
That the world was bigger than me and mine
That for some, all they wanted was fame
And that sometimes, that was also fine

Stark opposites, we lived side by side
Me with my dreams, you with your stars
We knew and drew the clear divide
Between yours and mine and ours

Bit by bit, it was ever so slow
The bonds we knew not how to force
Began to loose, tear, cracks show
And our road had reached finally its course

And so you left, and I laughed and I cried
And I laughed yet again
For I thought my soul had died
For I’d never known such pain

When you left, the sun was shining
I saw it this time, to my cheeks it made it’s way
And before I knew it I was closed-eye smiling
For I realised it was okay to be unokay

The sun still shines, and I say to you
Thank you, from the heart of my heart
For the times and the laughs that we both knew
And for the strength to make a new start



When You’re in Nairobi

When you’re in Nairobi, you run
There’s a bus to catch, you make haste
There money to make
There’s no time to waste

When you’re in Lusaka, you run
There’s deadlines to meet
There’s simply no time to stop, no time
To take a look at the people on the street

When you’re in Johannesburg, you run
There’s a reason, afterall, it’s called Jozi
There’s a life about the rush and the buzz
That has no room for the lazy

When you’re in Kafue, oh, when you’re in Kafue
The skies are blue, the hills forever roll
The lily pads on the river, and the blasting train horn
Sugar canes and sweet potatoes raw
In Kafue… Kafue you stroll

– Chiseche

When A Child

When a child is born
In the galaxy, a star dies
Blazing in an inferno of vibrant colour
Reflected when she first opens her eyes

When a child first laughs
When she giggles, when she smiles
A new ray of sun bursts alive
Stretching across the horizon for miles

When a child first walks
New paths come unravelled
Winding and twisting to forever
Guiding her to a world less travelled

When a child first talks
Her words clumsy and unclear
Stumble and stutter across the room
We hush, for a voice of the future is here



I had always walked through life with my arms to myself
Closed off, and hugged tight
Fists set, X-ed across my chest
Always ready for a fight

I had always walked through life with my eyes wide open
Balooned pupils darting for any hidden danger
Blankly blinking at odd moments of realisation
The reflection ahead was not a stranger

I had always walked through life with my mouth sealed shut
Speaking rarely, I dared not to laugh
My teeth gritted, jaw set tight, for I knew
This was a world for only the tough

I had always walked through life with my arms to myself
Now, catching with them the good, and the bad
Left and right are my stretched palms wide
Accepting and inviting all the happy and the sad

I walk through life with my arms wide open
I choose to bathe in the sunlight, and dream with the moon
I walk with my arms wide open
And wouldn’t change it for favour, fame or for boon



Many times it is said life passes you by,
Tiptoeing to a never end,
or zooming past so quickly, your book is already done
But me? Life tic-tac-toes its way on to the next level,
my mind consciously in the moment and when I look back…
I often see a stage left untouched.
A memory left locked, inexperienced, but a memory all the same.

Like in sixth grade, primary school.
l am scrawny and short, black skin aglow with Vaseline,
hair a mess that escaped its rubber band ties hours ago,
eyes big as saucepans, soaking everything in.
I had been skipped in from the fourth grade,
“her mind is too bright” the teachers had said…
leaving fifth grade a memory nice and shiny,
left untouched to be borrowed from the stories of others,
pretending they were my own.

Like in 10th grade, secondary school.
I am still scrawny but with a little more flesh.
Hair neatly braided to a strict shoulder length,
my Jesuit school skirt helped to fit by my trustee safety pin.
All the pretty girls around me, my new friends;
Mercy with the beautiful hair, Natalie with the long legs and the honey skin,
Kay with the eyes and the teeth and the smile.
They all giggle as they share their stories of the boys they’d kissed.
I listen and laugh, and when it comes to me, I freeze for a moment looking back at my starbursts of memories and find it there;
another memory, dull and grey and again unlived.

And so, I come up with Boy.
Boy is tall and handsome and came from my old school.
Sometimes he plays football, and other days he’s on the basketball team.
Sometimes he’s called Brian, and sometimes Andrew, but never ever Tyler- those don’t exist in Lusaka.
Boy becomes my companion all through school,
always in my pocket,
ready to be pulled out in the event of skipped memory.
Tweaked and fixed as meets the occasion,
perfect enough for idealist me, and just real enough for them.

Like in university,
I am still short. Scrawny? Not anymore;
my bones wrapped in flesh and fat and insecurities.
My hair remains in its neat Jesuit school shoulder length braids,
and Boy in my pocket, flown with me hundreds of miles to Kenya only to be thrown out when I realise that I can answer that question with a laugh and a sigh.
But Boy is soon replaced with Beer and Sex and Travel and all the other memories I am too afraid to make but can weave with my mouth.
Soon, my hands are filled, shoulders burdened by unlived memories, fantastic stories and fear. Fear of the structure I have so intricately created, falling down at my feet.

Like now,
my hands are free and my shoulders much lighter.
I am still short, I don’t think about what my body looks like,
and my hair is whatever I want it to be.
When I look back, I see a line of golden stars,
memories made from a life well explored.

And what about those memories untouched, unlived?
Well, they were never there to begin with.


Epiphany Embodied

What a day, what a year, what a time to be alive
Through my teeth I’d be lying
I’d lie if i didn’t admit
My ears are ringing, my heart is pounding, it’s like a happy dying

I look around and my eyes they see
All this glorious mess we’ve made
Their eyes, oh they can’t believe
As we hold in embrace all they forbade

Twisted and turnt, soft like wool
Hair to be worn like a crown
Brazen and burnt, embraced by the sun
Skin, its own shade of brown

With medals of gold, and crowns all ajewel
We march with fists upraised
On no one’s permission, we taught us ourselves
We are loved, revered and praised

Knowledge abundant, wisdom and grace
From the books read to us by our mothers
Talent unerred, the things that we learned
From our sisters, our fathers and brothers

What a day, what a year, what a time to be alive
We’re a story long untold
We are the Epiphany,
We are here, we always were, and our truths we will now hold


Kwas, Shanties and Favelas

May I speak to the lady of the house?
You? Impossível! Is she in?
But you’re muisto escura,
Com o cabelo ruim

You speak such good English
Where did you school?
But uko niku komboni
That surely can’t be true

We come from kwas, shanties and favelas
Our choices are trim, our chances even slimmer
You can ask us, we know
You’re the ones that made it so

You give us a ladder
And remove the first dozen rungs
Then you watch from your towers
As agony tears out our lungs

We’re good for your entertainment
So long as it’s gold, you’ll pay the clown
But when the fete is over, when the games are done
You barely bat an eyelid, as we consciously drown

That girl is so pretty
Do you know her name?
What? She’s from the shanty?
Oh never mind…oh what a shame

What is it about us that makes us less human
You whisper, you talk, you shame us with ease
Like a trend, you model our culture
And in the end, you shun us like a disease

We come from kwas, shanties and favelas
We’re as many as the eye refuses to see
But one day, we will not be invisible
One day, we will be.





Bullet for you
None for me
I took it laying down
I always let it be

The salt of the sea
Like the guilt of my sin
Pushed past my mouth
And forced its way in

You tried and you tried
But could you not see?
Talk of heaven had always been hell
For a blessed heathen like me

Young and beautiful
You claimed me like a prize
And then got fearful
When at last I opened my mouth

Bullet for you
None for me
I am rising up now
I’m my own
I am free.


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