My name is Kavu Ngala and I come from Kenya. I am a self-taught writer who had all my education in Kenya. I have read widely among African and European writers. My best writers are Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun, Sembene Ousmane, Chris Okigbo among many others. I have also read English writers such as John Keats, Shakespeare, Shelley and several others. My model writer is obscure to the English reading public. He is a writer called Shaban Robert who expired in the early 60's. He is the most contemporary of Swahili writers among his peers. I grew up with his poetry. I also write short stories and I am at the moment preparing a manuscript of my poetry which I hope to publish in a collection. At the moment I have just finished a course in Norwegian language offered by the University of Bergen. I hope to pursue literature studies soon.
Poems by Kavu Ngala
Introduction to A Tale Of The Streets & Dama and Saro
I think it is interesting to begin by sharing my vision of writing poetry in which I see similar to childbearing. In both, there is an exhilarating feeling of bringing something new to this world, which not only are creations, but which also share a strong phenomena of showing us the power of creation and its influence in our minds. One inescapable fact is that both possess inheritance from their creators. In writing as it has been noted in many quarters is where a person shows his roots. The term root examined more closely embodies several fragments which constitutes a person's life, one's upbringing, environment, fears and concerns and a host of other factors.
The essay is for readers to understand my writing which as any works, when left unexplained, go to shroud in strange vagueness. As I indicated in the preceding paragraph, self-indulgence in writing is a luxury that is almost unavoidable in a person's work and with this in mind, I am not any different. But as I have always tried to confine myself to keen observations, which I make, I also try to write representatively of them. Take for instance my poem 'A Tale of the Streets,' I observe the Kenyan economical and socio-political situation through the eyes of a beggar. It is worth here to note that in my own observation, the Kenyan is a thoroughly passive creature, who is fully aware of the environment and the dangers surrounding him. But he is not prepared to take a polemical stand to help himself. The beggar in my poem is not in anyway crippled. He can do useful and meaningful work, but he has resigned himself to the indignity of begging. He views his existence as fate and reckons that he was not made for the finer things of life. The Kenyan person is not any different.
My observation has been that aloofness in a society is a great vice that helps society stay embedded in mire. My sentiment finds vindication in history and existing misuse of leadership which is rampant in Africa. In synopsis, this poem shows chiefly among others what I call a detention of mind. A detention of mind is not different from detention as we know it, only that this is directed to the mind using several means by crippling and planting in it a sense of false hopelessness. The African leadership has done this remarkably well among their subjects. If one were to make a casual observation of Kenya at present, one will agree with me that people no matter of their status or education are slaving for a regime whose chief demand is sycophancy in order to turn any wheels. People lower themselves to the indignity of falsity to attain political correctness. Many of us know and realise that liberation begins in the mind. But like the beggar in the poem, people are entirely dependent on others, their moods and therefore accepting the harsh realities and existence while harbouring a ludicrous hope of liberation. In holding on to the belief of the statement about liberation, I believe Moses lives in all of us.
In writing the way I do, I hope to unlock the consciousness of plight and burden the reader with challenges instead of instructions. Didacticism on my part is not a pure task; it is merely an accident arising from a situation of maze. Challenge and nothing else is the task assigned to my poems. In 'Dama and Saro', power is questioned, and yields disastrous results. This shows that in questioning power there is a price to pay. While death is undesirable, bloodshed might be our only ticket to freedom from tyranny's clasp. I give this poem a narrative form to lend it stature. The language of speech used in the poem is purely for the effect. And in more ways than one, it helps to enforce pathos in the poem.
The purpose of this poem is to assume 'drama' and here it is important to note that the poem imitates the universally acclaimed 'Romeo and Juliet' and other such stories. And in doing so I am able to accomplish my aim. The problem of forced marriages was effectively in check in the traditional African village life, where respect for customs and traditions ran deep in society. Arranged marriages were absolutely normal and honourable. People viewed being married to a rich man as a big honour, but in contemporary Africa technology and circumstances demand women to be emancipated and be allowed to make free choices. Today's women are Henrik Ibsen's Nora in 'A Dolls House', their fathers Nora's and their men Torvald (her husband). In this poem, as in many others of mine, I encapsulate several themes of greed, poverty, love and so on and so forth. In not restricting my thematic exploration, I hope that readers will broaden their scope of survey and extraction of the several emerging themes present in them. In both poems, I make an emphasis on the need for change and the importance of revolution as part of our own systematic evolution. Recently, I told a friend in a cynical way that the only aim in existence is to realise oneself. Then, I did not fully realise the truth in that statement. But as the truth presents itself inside these words it hit me full weight.
I saw more sense in the advocacy and in my view that our rage in having horrific statures of rule should be blamed on us and not the system. It is a pure case of misplaced blame on our part. Reforms need to begin with us. In all this I write here, I am interested in showing my reader one thing and one thing only that is desirable to us humans is change. The need to embrace imminent change in Africa is now. It would be a misnomer for my reader to mistake my call for change, particularly societal change, and brand me as a person who is not proud and interested in preservation of cultures and traditions. Instead, one should understand my call for change as meaning desirable change. A departure from our disconcerting ways to a more profitable and meaningful ways is a response to our times and technology. In other words, the village has ceased to exist as we know it and has merged itself with the rest of the earth to form the global village.
A Tale Of The Streets (I & II)
I pray listen to my tale
Maybe to you it brings deathly pale,
Of things plunged riotously aflame,
Of creatures of habit plying lame
On streets littered with small lives
Filling the streets like some furniture, big lives
with their fancy wives and cars
Turning a blind eye, shampooed hairs
Walking by,hoary hairs dyed
Hiding things which long died
Where is equality? maybe sleeping
At some place on the street dreaming
As the rest of us,if she should wake
From her sweetened slumber shake
Her face the deep sleep to shoo
Her eyes would fill with salty dew
Witnessing throbbing mayhems,
Things schreeching, tyre rims
Sparkling in the glinting sun
Staring stupendous deeds done
Of souls inhuman from choice
I pray listen to my streetly voice
Which would surely go unheed
When the day yawns and need
To exit,make way for stillness
Of night,when all the populous
Streets briskly and noisily de-people
And,then when emptied,the chill in cruel call
Visits,shivering bodies trembles
As terrified shrills the night pierces
Ignoble muggings on the next
Street other peaceful lives vexed.
For many, mornings are sweet bitter tales,
Each of us knows must fend for meals
In the annals of our hearts is Rwanda re-visited
As some enormous explosive ignited,
Sights of people away trekking,
Some to us with a shilling propitiating
As to bothersome gods. Of fashionable
Persons in practised hurrying scuttle
Of all woken lives in dreamy solitude
Each seeking increase in fervid solicitude
Away!Away! to laziness I pray
For even to beg is hard work to you I say
Many piteous condemned souls unreckoned
Pass, within imprisoned in walls of wretched
Inescapable misery. Cars madly blink
As filled gigantic streets shrink
The dead city awakens-wide eyed
Our pitiable souls in fear made
Recklessly sprawled on pavements
While effortfuly idling with parchments
Of the remnants of our desolate lives
On semi-done roads evident of plundered monies
Of the UN,World Bank, IMF, etc funds
Part wallowing in bulging humps
And of street children with bottles soothin'
Them (A balm) of the repugnant benzine
Or at times the sticky smelly glue,
One of many self wrecking insidious joys to do
The young souls a little appeasement
For these little lives enjoyment
Maybe a reprieve from paining grief
In these intrepid fighters,brief
But brave combative stints with life for
Many end up flowers plucked before
Their time driving brave little souls
To the spirit world to answer calls
Of living souls to prepare the unborn
And guide the living among us worn
Out by seeing lovely sky scrapers
Towering in shimmering flashy glass
While scratching shaggy liced hairs
Or when chewing a cob of roasted maize.
A Tale Of The Streets (III & IV)
The scorching sun gets unbearably hot
Here in the city in the sun,when caught
In her shiny rays we move away
while continuing hunt of luck for the day
(In this house) Vehicles in toxic exhale
Unmelodiously sigh as market wares sale
Proceeds noisily unstirred at ovenly noon
When the music of silence born
Of quietness deserts,replaced by incessant noise
Undesirable as the tumultous agonies born of ploys
Of those sworn protectors of statehood
To which things sublime known are savoured
To their titles of greatness cling
And with hoards of sycophants who sing
To them elysian ditties which they love
While in eager spread of hate thrive.
In midst bubbling proceeds unstirred in maze
As those of us remain seated as if in laze
While staring emerging spectacles of things
As mirages on roads flash and retreat as if on wings.
Pangs of hunger strike relentlessly reminding
Of unpaid dues to the insides,this bring
Panic among others as hunger is a thing to avoid
And when unavoidable one curses out aloud
And then moves in silent capitulation to appease
The god of sustenance,to prolong lease
Of life in unknown tenure. Dizzy idling
Continues as many blind eyes walk,passing
Our plight which to them is neatly
Filed at some corner of the brain safely
As 'deffered items' to be bothered
When elusive funds are available, ignored
We persist and prevail as the inexorable cactus
This wound which yields smelly pus
Gives our passive drivers of the nation
Some useful distraction,then suddenly a commission
Or other fund guzzling thing is formed to cut
The boabab instead of uprooting, blunt axes are then about
Lurking,swaying,swinging and bumping
The fat lady sings and all is sent halting
Then the servant again becomes the master
In a mighty hypocritical swing one can muster
And declares growth of more worrying concern
Rhetoric refrains cease as the shine of day,done
Are all pathos in lightning flash,cables unplugged
All goes to take place in crowded memory unhindered
The evening creeps on as a thief
Stealing daylight with it gladness and grief
Evident among us of the street, pitying cheery
Embraces those lucky to escape cruel dreary
As great jubilation awaits-one known
Only to Okonkwo after the defeat he inflicted on
Amalinze the cat-of appropriate doses
Of local brews to keep the mighty cold at bay. Moses
Is still eagerly awaited in keen anticipation
To free our souls from tyranny's clasp. Frustration
Mounts as spent minds surrender to peaceful sleep
Tired from the squeeze of a choking grip.
Dama And Saro
On a still night in a house
Lay a girl on a bed, her lips parted
Eyes closed as if sleep had played
Some sweet melody to her. A garment loose
Covered her cocoa brown skin, silence
Gave her company, for even an owl
Dared not make a hoot nor a dog let a howl
For sadness came, painted and hence
All shone of deep mourning gloom.
Though imprisoned in silence, a few days
Ago was she like a flower unfurled
By the magic hand of nature upon her
Sleeping face, smiles seemed unending
Her girlish beauty all charmed wild
And this romance, she thought would last all her days
Then one evening, her father stood knocking
Her door she opened, he entered, pensive. Horror
Then begun, when to her, he proudly spoke.
Words spoke he plainly of betrothment
Her mouth in girlish anguish said 'No!'
And in a tone of finality as in a song
Her father spoke,'It is decided'sorrow
Pierced her like a thorn flesh among
Thoughts crept her jasmine head like bent
Her flowery hands shook uncontrollable
As a leaf in the wind, to stop unable
Wistfull, her heart shed a tear.
Her face also curled in a wistfull look,
which seemed to ask misery 'why creep my midst?'
Out in the dusk she went,the breeze kissed
Her, her teary face shone and glimmered
In the dim moon light tears entered a dissolving
Like dance, meantime, the suitor seated
Chatted,laughed, musing the while, took
His mug and drank in delight, smiling,
Thoughts danced and raced of her bride
Money and gifts played the game
Scarcely a thought of the girl's feelings
Were mentioned. In chatter did the proud
Father say many a thing about Dama aloud
Dama, for that was her divine name.
Outside dimly shone the twilight moon.
Impossible! Impossible were her outpourings
Young Saro is the one I love she continued and soon
All must know love is stronger than riches
Feebly, she turned in resolve and in she went
Her eyes, soaked in tears bitterly wept
Tears, at thoughts which made her nearly faint
The thoughts dwelt in her and disturbed she slept
In the morning, by her bedside where the shining sun
Flung her golden rays did sweet Dama awaken
Her girlish eyes brimming with sadness and tear laden
'O God help me!' did she cry and away began
A sorrowful, deeply hurt, teary thing.
Blinded alike, from life and death
Eastward she went, as though a plant shooting
Upwards towards the sun, hastily she trod
Oblivious of natures loosened loveliness in her path
Which, though wronged oft, extraordinarily insulated
Both from hurt and pain, always adorned
In smiles and rich attire, infinitely reminding
Of numerous shades and splendid fragrances enriching.
Then at last in the midst infront among the sitting
There, sat young Saro the saviour sought
Dama And Soro (II)
'Saro! Saro!' called she in an anguished voice
And from the tone did young saro read a mess
With a sweet voice made tremulous of sadness
'Ah Saro!'said she 'my Saro, tell me you love me'
'O Dama I'd sooner die than have you think I love
You not, if you did anything ever believe,
Believe I love you so madly, my own choice.
I would rather my soul to an end put for I see
No one else but you for me'so said he with passion
And those words brought glimmers
In those dewy eyes and head anguished
From a dreary night of pain and misery shivers
She dreamt awake of great happiness
Growing like some bloom in natures kiss
To its ripe gracious beauty enamelled
And in her mind she thought'O love
O mighty love lead me not again to misery
And if that path I tread again, please me save'
'What brings you here this early morning?'
Asked he in inquisition. Then all she told
When finished silence enveloped them awhile and held
Young Saro's face amid love, anger and hate sharing
Startled, overwhelmed, he knew not what to do
'My love, my beautiful precious, weep no more'
In boldness he spoke'let those wretched plan
Each other we have and our strong love will be their bane'
With that the two woeful lovers each other embraced
Suddenly a thought struck Saro like lightning
With a searching gaze and an aching heart
Did he speak like a minor seventh chord sweetly played
'O sweet Dama though wrecked and stranded
Shed not those fruitless tears, for weeping
Is but hopeless solace, with me come let us not again part
Forget the aching misery my wronged beauty loved
Though there be more deadly than a thousand armed soldiers,
Love's noble sword will slay. Come with me my sweet loved!'
The soft music of young Saro's exquisite speech
Stole sweetly into her her cave of misery
Its wings flew Dama to some unfrequented height
Of adoration, love, passion and courage sought
Her eyes stared as if entranced in some dream happy
Her dreary mind some bliss did reach
And misery grew jealous and weak
Then tears welled, of joy.They streamed her cheek
As some snake gliding down a tree.
Meanwhile, Dama's parents languished in lavishments
For a suitors generosity's knows no borders except
Size thereof and he was rich and wads of notes
And many a property of good real estate held
Him in his grip and yet, yet she loved him not
Poor him!for his heart in wild excitement leapt
Inummerable times unknown to him in a field
Afar Dama in her lover's embrace ensnared were
Embracing they were-two pained hearts
Engaging deeply in impotent triumph unlasting
While their hearts were deep in some riotous fear
'Ah Saro!' said she'nothing is nobler',
Greater, no bloom sweeter than love,
Comforting love's charming wings clasping
For if one were anything else beauteous, say a flower
And love were amiss. Of what purpose here
In this world will one's resplendency serve?'
And so that day the two lovers
Together stayed each other comforting
And though in anguish-beautiful as showers
Of some great bloom they were. 'We are safe
Here' Saro assured upon reaching his home, together watching
They saw dusk approach, the silver moon flirt
And wished upon the twinkling dancing stars, to laugh
They did and gloomy misery in a corner far sat
And through their woes and pains elusive joy crept
Meanwhile, the tick of clock, spurred
Apprehension, fear, uncertainity openly shown
For dusk was midst and Dama amiss
Her parents contemplative each other asked
'Where might our Dama be? O where
O where' Then a sudden thought across
Dashed like lightning 'Saro!' her father cried
'O my God!'her mother added while in gloomy stare
And both greatly wondered what was to be done
That night no eyelid closed in blissful sleep
The two parents amongst-whispering in anger
They contrived, purposing to get her back
The morning came' Ah! why all this stormy circumstance?'
The father asked' were it not a respectful mark
For a girl her parents wishes to obey? Perchance
She is forever gone, what face do I have? Ah weep
Not woman or my rage upon you will also throng!'
And away they went peace content-none among
And upon Saro's home they reached. Dama seeing
Dashed as a bullet. To Saro they spoke threatening
And when away they were gone. Saro, for Dama sought,
Finally each other they found, Saro threatened
He spoke of breaking up. 'O tell me Saro!
She cried' where is my own Saro gone?
Had you liked me more and loved me less?' Again
She continued 'I loved you as a flower sought
The sun. O heavens I better live no more!
If my body is windless atleast on wings loving
Some peaceful joy my way will come'then she left.
At home some deadly concoction she took and her lips
Uttered'O vile love! O betraying thing!
Let death me take. Him whose kiss bears
Peace to the dead and grief among the living
Let death clad me in white and me his bride
Be, whereupon I shall lie discreet in my abode,
Forget love's miseries and these eyeless troubles'
With that on this earth her life was forever lost.
When Saro alone was left in wise calm pondering
Amazed at those morning happennings shocking
News of Dama sweeped him like some object in a storm blast
His heart paining in lonely grief. Wrung
Was all joy in things of life, some sombre forlorn song rung
In his ears and to a cliff he went, the ocean overlooking
And into the raging ocean with spear like rocks he flung
Himself. And forever gloom painted faces left.
Once I had, first twelve ships, then one until none.
Battle strife, strew me bare. It's myriad tounges surged
me adrift in a vexed sea, where every single moment was
a debate in life's lonely struggle. I endured in silent soliloquy
of mind in this sacred palace under heaven's blue. Each suffering
moment left self inertia and despair. I felt, derelicted amidst
eon waves, tumbling in rage which clung clamorous with sad portents,
pelting cacophony. I was, a compassless lion of the podium, left
to sole survivorship of titanic trials in deep seas of polemics.
In assemblage of thought. I thought, of my peerage, past glories,
wine drunk in victorious delights.
Once I rode, riveted on a ram's belly. There, then, still I was
an audience of choiring antipodes, which sung in audible anger:
life's song in slow cadence - quenchlessly and flawlessly.
I, manacled to the orchestra of dispassionate fate, remembered,
of due libations and past burnt fleshy offerings. I learned then,
in the land of deceased spirits to expiate wrath.I stood, a
chameleon amongst an army of red ants, eyed by the transfixing glare
of life's immeasurable haggling self in constant roary laughter.
My heart, in times of valorous moments pleaded to sacred Ogun,
to quiet the bubbling froth, who threw to me timid winely throngs
of tempest repose, winnowing the interwoven labyrinths. I then,
condensed in cyclic curves of deftness the harvest of thought
to parchments. At some point I grew tired of reconciling the
ecosystem of sowing and weeding in bitter gales of thought.
Ancestral spirits songs, continually crowded my ears in trance
dance of recurring refrains in new sands multituded with
mortals, whilst I, mingled, with alien tounges and alien tastes.
There, my being stood an arid patch amidst a rainforest, sometimes
a tree amidst a treeless desert, harrassed by harsh sandstorms - As all
wearied wanderers, who are prone to struggle and suffering - Alone.
Life's wrath fed on time's slow unfolding. In turn, time's slow
unfolding fed on life's wrath to neutrality. There I stood on
life's wrath recumbent posture. I reminisced remotely, of swine
scrapes, sinking sails, freaking folly and lost labour. Loose! Lay
all the binary holds of life's intriguing nuptials - Divorced. The
paradox of blindmen in a lit room, counting money.
Rid of eccentric existences. I, Ulysses, in foreknowing probity,
proved to questing minds, my essence. I strung and shot my
bow to an evensong of ancient fires.
A Tear For Okigbo
I weep for Okigbo! Though long departed he may be
Though my rendezvous with his being was in a book
Though his writings are clawed with time's fingernails
They climbed an eternal rostrum
Etched in an indelible ink gum
The rendezvous had an emotion in me shook
To shed a tear and cry in silent wails
That death early so would pamper his tragic charm to he
Oh weep to he Who as a ship in mid-sea lost his sails!
The streams of tears shed in eyes would have held longer
If death had liked Okigbo a little less
Death clothed the clouds in solemn deep dark
Then he asked his symphony to sound
The cymbals of threnody around
He who sang more than Orpheaus lost pace
The crier was fallen! In a voice stark
Death mocked 'Weep your eyes red,you desolates!' still stronger
He added ' I keep now the poet who made sweet every song dark'
Though the swan song was sounded an hour to soon
The limbs in earthly rites were buried
For worms to feed,his bones for archaeologists
To excavate in an appointed hour
And grief fed it's aridity 'n tear pours
Better 'tis peharps that he departed
Than to have witnessed raping of infant investments
By crowned paedophiles, our sorrounds of ruin
Better still his body dis-engaged from fleshy trials,he walks with spirits
Death plucked him when he defied constancy.
When he was armed with shrapnels of change.
What born these propulsive violates?
Who drew the veils of humanity
For mankind to cover such vanity?
What makes sightly sane men to derange?
What power drives these misty tentacles?
But that which in me instills lunacy
Is what mist blurs the sight of men to questing wheels of thrones?
Oh weep for Okigbo, I implore weep again!
Let your weepings scatter silence
Of a cadenced cry-thunder of splitting pods
As the wind scatters the leaves in fall
Let echoes on mountains roll
For the thoughts unbound as incense
Are writ on banners inviolate as shrines
To which mortals bow and purge their worldly pain
For your soul as celestial wind moves in eternal scatters.