Love letter to Nairobi

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Nairobi,
I’ll miss you

I’ll miss your ‘I’m fine’s’ to my hellos
Your ‘imagine!’s
Your Swa(g), sheng and silences
Your kenyanisms;
Last week but one’s
You really tried!

I’ll miss
Taking to the streets
Candle lit vigils
Solidarity with Busia, Palestine, Chibok, Garissa
Ranting on the airwaves
Inter-faith iftars

Paying for artists who never showed
Shows where artists never got paid

Your hustle
Your politiks and scheming politikers

Your mats screaming for pedestrians to get off sidewalks
Being duped explaining the dupe
Being held at (toy) gun point

Your social media suave
Your (tech)novations
Your witty hashtags and comebacks

Your sema’s and subsequent woiyee’s
Your kesho’s and majaliwaa’s
Your sawa sawa’s
To my ‘kidogo tu’s’

Your kuku’s and samaki’s
Nyama choma I never quite caught on to
Your Java’s and Ankara’s
Dawa and masala

Self made designers
Your local brass, wood and fabrics
Dressing my fingers, home and shoes

I’ll miss your boda bodas
And your matatu wisdom’s:
“Don’t lose your temper, nobody needs it!”

I’ll miss your bookstores and kahawa spots
Your cinemas and green spaces
Your KICC rooftops
Your Pawa’s and your hub’s

Your book clubs and writing collectives
Movie nights
Karaoke
Lost friendships over taboo

Your hollowed and patched streets
New as they be, making no room for walkers
Your low lit alleys
And moody askari’s

Your wordsmiths and music makers
Your tear drops and Mufasa’s
Your Sarabi’s, Fena’s, Suzanne Owiyo’s

Nairobi,
I miss you
Before I’ve even left…

Lamu’s Shella

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Breezy Cushioned Rooftops
Canopied by darkened skies
Lit up by constellations and maybe even whole galaxies
I couldn’t seem to trace
Or even attempt to begin to count

Shooting stars (and drones?)
Overlook as
Flirting winds
Kiss blushing trees,
Applauding oceans
Create waves
Romantic spell broken only by speedboats
Rushing noisily to get nowhere

A solo trip
A 12 room house to myself
Yet I’m almost never alone

Startled in the middle of the night
By sad brayings of donkeys
Creaking of open windows
Banging of open doors
As the wind negotiates past…
The night whispers its sweet lullabies
And yet I’m unable to fall asleep to its tune

Waking up to the sweet rising of a sun
I saw setting from a dhow the eve before
A breeze I would buy and bottle if I had the means

7 Muathins call the faithful to prayer from every which direction
Like a staggered chorus,
Echoing each other’s “Allahu Akbar’s”

Business/Entrepenurial tips from
Stranger turned suitor
Announcing news of our unagreed yet impending wedding
Mind you, a self-confessed former playboy

Women
Strikingly absent
Is that why they look at me so?

Marriage/Relationship tips from masseuse turned confidant
‘You’re getting old, you must get married!’
Says host/receptionist/assistant/caretaker adamantly
He’s an Omer-do-it-all sort of Jack who’s been around for close to two decades

Henna painting by a mother turns into
Convo with child about academic pursuits, dreams and how far one should persist
She promises to keep pushing

Collecting shells and stones by the seashore
Getting increasingly excited with every find
Omer indulges my unbounded and child-like excitement
I keep picking until his pockets begin to jingle and sag with the weight

Her/historic visit
First Ethiopian
First meal where host and guest sit together
Feasting on fresh fish neither had caught
Sweet potato mash suggested to chef
Now to be part of menu permanently as ‘Nebila mash’

Transport by all means
Donkey and bare feet tread the land
While sail and speed boats alternate the water ways

Bats hang, as they do, upside down
From the balcony
Watching,
As I attempt to transform memory into floetry

How does one quell a raging fire?

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creative commons license: Flickr (Thomas)

How does one quell a raging fire?

Through silence?
The type that expands to make room for the rage —
Or swallows it whole, leaving (no) room to exhale?

Through attention/acknowledgement?
Does that fan it?
Giving it power to dig its roots deeper –
Or does it dampen its need to scream its presence?

By fighting it?
Does that fuel its desire to emerge victorious —
Or cause it to cower for fear of failure?

Is it for us to quell a raging fire?
Or must we let it run its course,
Even if the result is destruction?
Perhaps giving birth to fertile ground, allowing for new growth and new life?

Breathe beauty

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I be fierce.
But also gentle.
And loving.
And compassionate.

I will breathe beauty
Until I can breathe no more.

Night at the Mosque

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Last ten days usher in all nighters
In search of the Night of Power
Reprimands and laughter
Communal bitings and conversations
Brief sleeps urged by monitors
Impromptu classes
Arabic and etiquette
Quran and enunciation

Strong personalities clash and coalesce
Prayer mats turned to temporary mattresses
Awoken from deep slumber by faith and devotion
Feet stand and rest follow
Beauty in humility
Submitting body and self to a higher Being

Allahu Akbar!

Upright bodies, side by side
Straight rows
Gaps mitigated with touching toes (sometimes incessantly so)
Waning concentration with wandering minds
Constantly being brought back to present
By melodic, rythmic verses

Ameen reverberating through the entire mosque
Countless voices
One chorus
Many bodies
Single movements
Diversity despite/amongst uniformity

Viewing through Geometric dimensions

Assalam u alaykum we rahmatullah…

Welcoming Ramadan – Day 1

ramadan_kareem

Today marks the first day of Ramadan. Ramadan is the holy month for Muslims by which we fast (don’t take food or water amongst other things) from sunrise to sunset for the next 29/30 days until the month is over. It is a time for increased introspection, reflection, deepening spirituality and developing a greater consciousness of self as well as practicing empathy for others.

May this holy month bring with it countless beauty and blessings, serenity and selam and a will to keep building and growing and improving long beyond the end of these 30 days, if we are so lucky to live them.

Saum maqbul. Selat maqbul. Duah maqbul. Insha’ALLAH.

Some articles on Ramadan:
Facts, History, Dates, Greetings and Rules about the Muslim Fast
Ramadan Guide to Islamic Holy Month
Why Muslims Celebrate Ramadan 

Addis

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I’m nostalgic for a city
I know in my thoughts
As though my absence for over a decade
Has meant nothing
As though the characters that populate my memories
Are as I left them
Although many are long gone

The city of now is no longer as was
The present has left little to imagine of its past
Whole neighborhoods created and destroyed
Homes, his/her stories crumble with bulldozers
Giving rise to high rises

Our meetings, though frequent, are fleeting
I am yet to acquaint myself with what you’ve become
To relearn who you were
And who I was with you

I fear feeling unhome at home
Of feeling more comfort in places that are not

Is it possible to be outside one’s own world?
Or perhaps it was never mine to claim?
Perhaps notions of home and world wax and wane and take on meanings of their own?

New flower, I wonder if I will grow old with you…or if you will age with me

What’s tomorrow, that isn’t today?

Sleeping hours away
In ten minute increments
Persistent in silencing
Incessant calls of alarm

Knotted chests
Rash but long awaited decisions
Necessarily made
Mitigating against deteriorating conditions
Lost time

Who knew
Uncertain tomorrow’s could be so liberating?
Stopping to breathe
Is not such a bad thing.

What’s tomorrow, that isn’t today?

Running Circles

we are strong together

the struggles seem a-plenty
the solutions too far and too few
we squabble over space amongst ourselves
while our world is constantly shrinking
squeezing us too tight
that we must ration our breaths

we’re too busy running circles
we’ve dropped the basics along the way
it’s time
to slowen our pace
time to go back
pick up the pieces
of ourselves and each other we’ve left behind

Weeping clouds

weeping clouds
By Amira Ali

On the hazy open road
Migrant’s journey under one sky
Clasping suitcases
Full of unspoken longings
Inner complexities
Memories and dreams

And in the orphaned life
Making the best of burdens
In spite of the dead
Whose absence trail the living
In spite of events that split open the sky
And crack the grounds
Resiliently spirited
Migrants survive
Under weeping clouds
Through tough terrains
Of xenophobic attacks
Ruffled skirts and names
With hopes of unfurling tongues
Unravelling fears
Holding onto faith that one day

They
We
All
Will chant, “We know you. We see you.
I am in you like you are in me.
I am you like you are me.”

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