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Kenyan author Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ turns 52 years old today! He is celebrating the momentous day by sharing three poems that capture various moments in his life, as well as reflections on lessons learned and hopes for the future.

Enjoy reading and join us in wishing him a happy birthday!


Poem at Fifty Two

So many things!

Berlin wall falls. Genocide in Rwanda,
Mandela is president in SA. Coup attempt
to oust a dictator in Kenya fails.

Many before and after but at some point
Ken Saro Wiwa is hanged as we watch.
With Steve Biko Black power becomes

black consciousness becomes BLM.
In the congo over 6 million dead
to radio silence. And we still

do not know where Dedan Kimathi
is buried after the British hanged him.
What kind of a nation does not bury its dead?

Look, like Bishop Tutu, Mandela came
and went without seeing freedom
in Palestine. If my body was a history

stamp, it would carry success and failure
and hope and despair in equal measure.
Aluta Continua, Agostinho whispers in Angola.

Taking Tally at 46 For Family and Friends

At forty-six I have had my fair share of losses
but I have much more to celebrate, family both near
and far for whom love is the currency of exchange
not always but often enough. Friends who still fight
even in their sleep for a world without centers and walls
for whom generosity is community, not always
but often enough. And I can count six books
not yet my best work I hope, but enough crumbs
for my daughter to follow. I have lived
long enough to know that tyrants come and go
but the people remain. Yes we lose some whose
names we know but enough strangers remain
to carry on. All the same though, for my 50th
I want a goddamn revolution!

Testimony for Silvia Plath
(A poem on turning thirty)

Each day
little crumbs
of blessed bread fell
from my teeth, lips,
as I eat
through life
like a chain saw.
Then one day,
as if by lightning I was thirty.
Looking back,
unaware that storms
had washed away my trail of debris, I found I was gone,
I had no back,
a song
with no memory,
I was erased –
only tomorrow –
a thin shroud to envelop me,
I die
as I live (even)