Treading Water

With my hands on your shoulders
I can tread water for days
Kidding myself – I can float 
I don’t dependent on you to breath
You tire of my closeness
And dive down deep to swim
Finding new clear waters
While I flounder behind alone 
I struggle to breath 
Hardly afloat
Swallowing bitter salt water
Crying to you “come back”
You return – oh my hero
And close you stay again
I kid myself – I can float
I don’t need you to breath
Floating on false security
Pretending you won’t dive again

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Ugly Sexy Love

As I write my stomach is churning and I feel a sense like some kind of impending trauma is afoot…… I wish I knew why.

Now, I’m not sure what other writers do, but I have hundreds of scraps of paper, napkins (hello 1990s pick up scene) and half filled note books with ideas, starts of stories, starts of poems, descriptions of characters and indignant responses to situations which I have chosen to scrawl down rather than verbalise … I then keep these pieces of paper/napkin/envelopes etc.. becuase they are naturally too precious to dispose of. My desk is therefore a mess, so I am writing at the dining table, using my mobile phone rather than my laptop – and totally disregarding the precious napkins which hold all of my most inspire starts!

I started a story a little while ago and lost it, but after a rather deep and extended conversations with a dear friend last night who pointed out many of my shortcomings (the man was right) and by doing so has assisted me in developing some new self are strategies, and inspired me to write some more. As such, I spent a portion of today searching through old writing folders on my computer, whilst binging on apple crumble (I paint a sexy picture don’t I?) and after rereading this paragraph decided I would see if I couldn’t finish it off.

Here is the very first preview of my new story – it’s working title is Ugly Sexy Love.

I hope you like it.

“There is something which is both beautiful and ugly, both disgusting, yet strangely acceptable about the relationships we conduct. The way we look at each other and treat one another should be evolving… to become open, civilised and pain free. You know, like thermomixes, like hair dressers appointments and cosmetic surgery, but instead, we hide our completely unsterile, unacceptably harmful and toxic relationships behind white curtains, cucumber eye-masks, and a complete and utter denial that anything untoward ever occurs.

My life is like this you know…. by day I am so smart, and so together…. and by night I chow down on canned mushroom soup, while my thermomix looks on and judges me silently from the corner. I am watching TV, avoiding my research, and waiting for him to call me, to message me, to offer me far less than I am actually worth. As my eyes flicker from the TV screen, to my mobile, and I wonder if I have any ice cream and if I should bother shaving my legs, my mind drifts to the blades I keep stashed in my drawer, and the pain killers in the bathroom. I really hope he calls.”

Inshallah

Poison bled across the skies
And of all the words I learned
There are none to disappear
Cracks, stains and pain
Caused by an ill timed breath
Pain dripping from an unknown source
Bleeds ugly into man 
Painting hate, sewing discord
The horizon is spoiled
Inshallah the sun still rises 
Abandoning not out useless kind

New Dreams

I loved you before falling 
Deep in the dark abyss
Floating amid dead souls of lost dreams
Away from the depths of my fantasy
Thick with dead passion and finality
Not a malicious word was spoken
You see, varied hearts hold varied dreams
A maze of destinations unseen
Fresh light is needed but not yet sought
My heart to weary to begin this walk
Spreading my arms I choose just to float
On a sea of dreams….
Heading towards new shores 

Ugly

I told my secrets to the darkness
To relieve my burdened soul
The darkness consumed and flourished
Fuelled on by my pain 
When I close my eyes I can’t hide
Sleep is no longer an escape
No longer any reprieve 
No solace from the demons
Haunting my days and dreams
Problems shared and problems spread
Ugliness everywhere
Magnifying my flaws and cracks
Showing everything I want no one to see
I can’t find myself
Lost in the abyss – floundering in darkness 

Go

I begged you to hurt me
When I hate you I can let you go
With pieces of my heart strewn around me
My body throbbing with pain
As though the wounds were real
You hurt me
And I can’t let you go

I told you all of my secrets  
I let you into my darkness
I thought you could make my hurting go away
Fuck me for fun, laugh with me, 
Distract me from the pain
Shared with you everything to make you run
Thinking it might make you stay
But you hurt me
And I can’t let you go

Good bye

I’m done loving you
One day I won’t be needing you
When will I stop missing you?
You were more than I thought
I wasn’t what you wanted
But you took everything I had
Why would a man stop a woman loving him?
Black and white – you are good and bad
Never thought any more or less
I’m done hurting and waiting
I’m done loving you
One night I won’t be crying for you
When will I stop missing you?

Tell me what I need to hear

Meet me where I tell you
Then say what I need to hear
Lie still and hold me tight
Love me and hurt me 

Share with me your secrets
Then believe all of mine
End my fears, or kill my dreams
Love me and hurt me 

I won’t ask your for much
If I hurt you, I will go
I will take what you give me
Love me and hurt me 

Another Piece of my African Tale…..Lost in translation 

I’m one of those stupid people (yes, I said it) who will trust you until you prove yourself to be an absolute waste of oxygen… I’m pretty liberal with the amount of asshole like behaviour I will let you get away with before I draw the time, but once you have proved yourself to be an absolute dick, well then, it’s over. I won’t trust you any more. I don’t care who else forgives you, how much time passes or how many times you apologise. Pay your debts to society, turn over a new leaf or whatever but don’t expect me to come running around forgiving you to help alleviate your guilt. Fuck that. Life is short and I am busy trying to change the world.

As such, when Onesmas asked me to give a lecture on democracy (based on my degree in public policy/international relations) I told him “No.” I explained that I had come to AFrica to learn and to help, not to play stupid local political games…. apparently this was not the answer he was looking for. he then asked me if I would explain basic political science, just a “pol sci 101” talk for the men and women at the same pentecostal church where we were to meet the Lunenele Orphans. Eventually, I agreed to talk about how and why Shannon, Wil and I were in Africa and the role that I though Western interventions should be playing in poverty eradication and development.

Giving a lecture, in a field you are only vaguely experienced in, in a language you don’t speak, because you are concerned that you may end up homeless in a rural area of a developing country…. sure what could go wrong with this???

A problem I had was that I had no idea where to start – politics is a broad topic, it’s like telling someone ‘go talk to those people about history’. The history of what country, tradition, language, area? For how long? How in-depth? What topic? What standard? Eventually because I could see no way of getting out of it, I agreed to talk about democracy. When we got there, I realised that I couldn’t just give a lecture on democracy, how? Why? And who the hell was I to walk into the church of strangers, as a foreigner and lecture them on democracy? So in the end what I told them was more of a pep-talk about how no one was going to solve Kenya’s problems for Kenya. It was down to Kenyans to do it, here’s a copy of the speech I wrote up later that day, its not exactly the words I used, but it’s pretty close.

 Milembe Wosi (Greetings Every One)

You all call me a Muzungu (European/foreigner) and you’re right. I’m not from Kenya, I’m not even African. But still you are all looking at me asking me to solve all of your problems. I don’t even know what all of your problems are, I know some, but the rest I would have to guess. You M’Africa (Africans) know what Kenya needs.

William, Shannon and I don’t have money to hand out, but we do have hearts that want to understand the problems. We do care. We wish to communicate and co-operate with the people of Shikunga in order to help you to provide the future your children deserve.

Every child here has great potential, and it is they who with your help can change Kenya. There is no point in teaching them to rely upon foreign aid, as it is not sustainable We are here not to control your actions or to deal out instructions we are here to join with your community family and work with you under your instructions to help develop the potential of your children. Your children are the future.

 I summed up by telling people that Wil and I would be outside to answer any questions they may have had after mass, and that Shannon was shy and wouldn’t be making a speech. 

While I was talking Onesmas was translating my speech for the people in the church to understand. Now I at the time I couldn’t  speak Swahili well, but I knew a few words. I learned them from my Acholi friend back in 2002 I know that child is mototo and love is upendo. I had used these words in my speech and they weren’t translated. When I confronted Onesmas later he said ‘Oh, I just told them what I thought you should have said.’ I thought ‘Right. That’s it.’

 I know I must be depicting Kenya as an awful place that I didn’t like, but that’s not how it was, Kenya is obviously, rather mad… a land of mini buses licences to carry 12 people, but packed with 24 with additional people on the roof… oh and of course a chicken or two are usually on board as well. I remember the first time I rode on top of a bus on the way home the other day, it was such fun, quite liberating for someone who comes from a seat belt and safety obsessed nation. So there Sarah and I were riding on the top, much to the horror of the local women, (well men too) as women just do not ride on top of the matatu’s! (Actually forget that…sane people don’t ride on top of matatu’s!) Think about it though, you’ve got a small van with about 26 people in it, if the police pull it over the 15 excess passengers (it’s of course licensed to carry only 11) are arrested, it is 35 degrees and no one wears deodorant. As a white you are basically assured that you will never be arrested and so do you ride inside or ride on top? On top it is really dangerous but, the air is fresh, there is minimal live stock and you can always see where your stop is.  

In Kenya most of my mornings started off at about 5am with chai (tea) and bread with Jam. Initially I had to travel to the office everyday, now the office was in the town of Kakamega (an hour away from my village shikunga), which explains all the travelling on top of vehicles with chooks.

Days tended to end with me being dusty, tired and having jack of people yelling out ‘HEY MUZUNGO! Come on my Bodo-bodo!” (‘Hey white person, ride on my bicycle taxi thing-o’) It is fun, but sometimes I just wanted to walk.
Days end with Ugali (a mixture of maize flour and water cooked over the fire until it looks almost like mashed potatoes but much stiffer and can be taken with the hands to eat stew), greens and kuku (chicken – on good days) and a shower in a bucket by candlelight, as we have no power or plumbing.

It was really amazing in Kenya, half the time, it was the way I expected it to be, sometimes it wasn’t though… Having come straight off the plane into dramas with the organisation, finding yourself entirely isolated with the only people you know being corrupt thieves wasn’t exactly an ideal situation. I remember sometimes I would be walking up the dirt/mud track to the road (gravel track) and suddenly there would be a herd of cows walking towards me with a barefoot 8 year old boy wearing only a pair of shorts would be guiding them, stopping thieves from taking them, and making sure the calves didn’t take the mother cows milk or there’d be none left to sell, or I would be stumbling around through the banana trees in the dark and I would suddenly realise ‘Hey, I’m in AFRICA. I have always wanted to be, and now I am. Everyone back home has always said I would go, and now I have! I. Am. In. Africa.’

One time, early on in my stay in Kenya I saw a prison work gang in the city, they were dressed in the traditional striped black and white prisoners clothes that we seem to see only in movies and cartoons. The were working on a government maize field, and they were surrounded by machine gun bearing police officers. While this did not make me feel at all safe, it was a definite ‘I’m actually in Africa’ moment!