Nick Makoha

Poet Nick Makoha is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and a Fellow of The Complete Works in the UK. He won the 2015 Brunel African Poetry Prize and the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize 2016 for his manuscript Resurrection Man. His poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, Rialto, The Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. Find him at

Candidate A

For the record, he loves his own reflection,
this farmer’s son from the delta. A splendid type.

Bone from the neck up, trained in wickedness,
born to lead, useful against the Mau Mau.

Unprovoked, he once cracked a cow’s skull
with flat palms as the beast stared at him.

Did the same to three cattle herders at Lake Turkana.
Reached into their necks to eat their intestines (allegedly).

He should have been court-martialled,
especially after the assassination attempt.

Such men rise in the ranks and can only be removed
by death or revolt. I suggest we seduce him with wives.

Surround him with ceremony, regulation and rules
even though secretly he feels they do not apply to him.

Feed him with titles: His Excellency, Field Marshall,
Effendi etcetera. His cravings have no limit.

We can use distrust of competition to our advantage.
He will demand acclaim in an unbridled urge to destroy.

Easily compensated, he does not accumulate goods
or possessions for the future, opting for immediate gratification.

While he buys friends, kills citizens without fear of god or religion,
in his effort to be remembered, we will make our mark.



Comrade! Take the fire, its marrow and ash.
Take what vanishes and now repeat.

Without risk take the nation, its boundary.
If it miscarries take the calves and now repeat.

Take the soul and its vigour – make us vagabond.
Take the women and their fruit and now repeat.

Take the musician’s tambourine and tilt of hip,
the wisdom a body forgets in motion and now repeat.

Take this world, its reflection, my memory of it,
place it in the boot of your car and now repeat.

Take the mountains, their wind and silence,
their gram and ounce and now repeat.

Take the tomb, its sharp edge and warriors,
all their bloody exhaustion and now repeat.

Take the future and her search for freedom,
for an alias along the wall of time and now repeat.

Take our sleep as it narrows and what it drinks
ourselves losing ourselves and now repeat.


Black Death

Two men who have never had a country of their own
fall out over a girl in a bar. In place of war they pull off their shirts,
lunatics in an embrace, as a barmaid fills my glass with local ale.

Policemen hang out of armed cars with sophisticated weapons.
Fleas fry on their backs as a ricochet gives voice to the air.
At full stretch a camera blinks at an unshaven male, clearly dead.

They are beating his body while I stand outside myself.
A year from now I will suffer the same death by water.
This body will be a map in the dark, moving towards a shore.

By the open stove of my wife’s village there will be death by surprise,
death by marriage, death by having rummaged into the past,
into the distant past of a man that neither of us remembers.

After boycott marches there will be death by placards.
In radio silence Israeli ground troops will storm a home
looking for the Archbishop. Death by Judas kiss.

Lizard-coloured helicopters filled with embassy-men and snipers
with walkie talkies will signal  for death by longshot. Demonstrators
behind masks with eyes like loaded dice will ask for death by decay,

the body turning black, bloodlet like a pig. The crowd is here
offering false compliments to an immigrant on his knees.
Death by confession – words that are not your own.

A note whispered in earshot of a New York Times news crew
as man sets fire to himself. The body now an animal bent double
a shadow of vague form promising to raise itself from the earth.