The True Prison | Ken Saro Wiwa

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell
It is not the clank of the key
As the warden locks you in
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for beast or man
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not

It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for a generation
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing into her book
A punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral decrepitude
The mental ineptitude
The meat of dictators
Cowardice masking as obedience
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
That we dare not wash
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison

Malawi: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Pipe Still Puffing (Ten Years On) | Jack Mapanje

Yesterday, I stopped at another
Shell petrol station and recalled how
you’d have loved to puff from your pipe
there, for your Ogoni people and land;
I did not, of course, stop to fill up with
petrol, definitely not! I stopped merely
to have a good pee, as promised I would
when they got you executed. Today, I
thought, well, why don’t we treasure
the moment we once shared?

 

Jack Mapanje (b. 1944, Malawi), currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is the author of 4 collections of poetry, the editor of several more, and the recipient of awards including the Rotterdam Poetry International Award and the African Literature Association (USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award.

Kenya: Letter to My Nephew (For Ken Saro-Wiwa) | Mukoma Wa Ngugi

The sun is locked in evening, half shadow

half light, hills spread like hunchbacks over

plains, branches bowing to birth of night.

It’s an almost endless walk until the earth


opens up to a basin of water. You gasp

even the thin hairs on your forearm breathe,

flowers wild, two graves of man and wife

lying in perfect symmetry, overrun by wild


strawberries. Gently you part the reeds,

water claims the heat from the earth, you

soak your feet, then lie down hands planted

into the moist earth. You glow. Late at night


when you leave, you will fill your pockets

with wet clay. But many years from now,

you will try to find a perfect peace in many

different landscapes, drill water out of memory


to heal wounded limbs of the earth. You

will watch as machines turn your pond

inside out, spit the two graves inside out

in search of sleek wealth. Many years


later, after much blood has been lost and your

pond drained of all life you will wonder, shortly

before you become the earth’s martyr, what

is this thing that kills not just life but even death?

 

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, is the son of renowned African writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he grew up in Kenya and is the author of Black Star Nairobi (2013), Nairobi Heat (2011), and Hurling Words at Consciousness (2006). He was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2009, and the Penguin Prize for African Writing for his novel manuscript, The First and Second Books of Transition, in 2010.  He teaches at Cornell University.

Culled From: http://mukomawangugi.com/

The African Book Review is posting a poem from each of Africa’s 55 countries over the next few weeks. Poem suggestions can be sent through the comments form below. ‘Like’ us on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to read all the poems.