Michelle is a Kenyan, from Nairobi. Her work attempts to investigate time and memory, and is inspired by childhood, dreams, and music from all over Africa, particularly from the seventies and eighties. Her poems have been published in the Enkare Review, and she has fiction forthcoming in the SSDA ID anthology. Michelle would one day like to write something about birds. She is currently doing an MPhil in Zoology at the University of Cambridge.
the alignment of voids
This is what it means to document hope:
that the page always remains some form of blank.
Do you remember the coolness of the time,
how those who peacefully vowed against the closure of death are
now not here, and
This is what they did to us—not as themselves, but as
Something as sad as the souls of dead trees,
their valid excuses for having no flowers––
it is here we finally accept home as empty streets and buzzing lights of
shades of yellow you can’t describe,
but that you used to know, still present beyond the intimacy of knowledge.
A man sits in the night, inside its very being, writing letters to the perfect alignment of the voids before him,
and with each word, over the steps of a decommissioned library in some corresponding place, yellow flowers of light
fall from the hands of
an unknowable child.
There is no bougainvillea on Haile Selassie Avenue
You are the space that didn’t surround me in its abundance, so inordinately full of itself. It occurs to me that it might have been you standing there many years ago, as it has been you standing there as I passed you moments ago, still the same in every way. Which path is this, I would imagine, that starts somewhere I have never been, and is bravely, unashamedly itself as we are taken back there, taking you back to where you started from, no, where the other you started from, what path is it that brings this you here? Another memory:
I remember you were urinating on the bougainvillea, and your mother saw you. She told you to stop, but then you were running, running away on Haile Selassie Avenue.
(and for the first time, this is how it is to look at other people, other paths, and you begin to wonder about the naming of things, like streets, and avenues, and who gets to decide where you urinate, and you wonder about genitals, too. You wrote a semi-public thing on the subtle vanity beneath the indignity in midday erections and dead flowers and half-limbs that all dare to work perfectly the same way in our bloody-brilliant city, even when after-earth doctors hurriedly stitched discarded feathers into each, a dirty inspiration from the unpersonablia that littered the roads––such as bodies that re-emerge unburied, unchanged––such as yourself.)
I began to wonder about your naming and who you were then, who you are today, the same person, the same clothes, because word for word I repeated all this questioning back, and in response, perhaps what changes, while lifeblood all the same, is the red deadness in your eyes, as if you’ve been watering the bougainvillea, you know? and after it grows––the same redness of the flowers blooming behind your eyes.
under the roof
I was home, but it was not the home I knew. I stood outside, and all I could do was stare up at the roof. It was about to rain, and I was all alone, and I did not know where to go. Up in the roof, even through its opacity, I saw numerous girls, maybe five or six. I did not know we lived with these girls, whom I might have called my sisters. But why were they being hidden, when they might have played with me at one point or another? Before I got angry about this, I saw that they were dark and featureless, which made their bright clothing stand out even more. I saw them in various stages of feminity, one or two standing and dancing in delicate fluffy tulle, gentle movements, smooth and unhuman. There were others at a mirror, doing things to their faces, to their hair. I stared at them, and from their movements, the dance movements, the face and hair movements, came this music. I had never heard anything like it before. It was pink, and I was certain I was the only one who could hear it. It did not sound like anything in harmony, anything you could put a score to, but there it was, like two different birds singing to each other through the wind.