6 Poems – by Stephen Derwent Partington

Focus: Kenya poems.

Save Our Beloved GDP

Kenya, January 2008

They must not reach the CBD:
its roads are business arteries,
its Mercs are pure red bloodcells.

Their invasion will affect the heart of commerce,
they are parasites.  

They must not block these roads,
these roads are smooth and clean
and neat.

No, they are matted-haired
and tatter-clothed,
their skin is smeared with grease.

No, no, they mustn’t block these streets:
we have sophisticated buildings,
polished windows, shining mirrorglass:
we like to see reflections of ourselves.

But they, these peasants and workers,
these jobless and lowlife 
and manifold shirkers
are dirty and different:  No!

These roads are beautifully grey
with perfect pinstripes down the middle,
down the sides.  They have a symmetry.

But they, this tide, are chaos,
can’t be channelled,
simply mass along a highway
sweeping all before their swash.

No, no, economies are built upon
the line, the graph, the spreadsheet:
passion’s dangerous.
Much safer to deploy the GSU:
at least their uniforms are uniform,
the swift path of their shot a perfect line.

We must protect the CBD,
its 4x4s, its smoothwalled concrete
and its cold and rigid steel.

Who wants their branches in the city?
Or, for god’s sake, all those
waving white kerchiefs?
They halt our progress, all these masses:
move the bastards on with teargas,
paid police.



Divide And Misrule 

Kenya, January 2008 

What does dug earth care at all about ethnicity? 
A Mwangi fits a six-foot hole 
as snugly as Owuor. 

And tell me, where’s the corpse that anyone 
can teargas with success? 
Or did you do it to augment the tears of mourners, 
out of kindness? 

Can you tell a foe from how he skins a cow 
or peels a spud 
or guts a fish? 
Are these enough to skin his hide? 
Perhaps it’s speech, the way she shrubs? 
And who’s the carrier, his mother or his dad?
Can we locate the gene for Enemy? 
Today, can we condone the fact 
Kikamba’s only got one word for ‘enemy’, 

Reflect: that family you killed, 
it had as little land as you. 
Or did you see the old machete used to cut you?
Dented, rusty, cheap, like yours. 
Reflect on this. 

This warped deflection of your anger 
isn’t justice: 
it’s a coffinful of shit. 



Our Elder Professors of Self-Preservation

Kenya, January 2008   

Where are the intellectuals?
Perhaps they’re still at Christmas
where the world is home with family
and no-one’s been displaced?

Or they’re enjoying hot Mombasa,
snug in swimming pools
while locals swim in blood?

Perhaps they’re visiting their kids
at foreign unis and, respecting
British Government Advisories
are staying put abroad?

I don’t remember any new Decree
obliging them to shtum.
I don’t believe that any Nyayo cells
have been restored to house them.

No, for sure they are in deepest thought
preparing for the moment when,
like squirrels, they will pounce,
will tell the winners just how right they were,
how wrong the sorry losers.
Wow, what prescience, what scholars!



Over the Heads of Protestors

Kenya, January 2008

If only they were right, the  Maji Maji,
that a bullet fired in anger or incompetence
could magic like the Alchemy of old,
not from base lead into gold,
but into water, to the lifeblood of the world.

Each round of gunfire, then, a dash of holy water
from the barrel of a hose, a benediction.
Every spray of steel, a christening, new life.
A heroes’ fiction, this, but let’s agree:
what’s Alchemy, but  shite? 

Precision-lathed to fit inside a cartridge,
of a calibre to snugly ride the journey
from the cold breech to the muzzle
down the automatic’s Styx, a bullet
keeps the laws of nature as it hits:

a hole of rather less precision as neat physics
meets biology and motors through a chest.
A clever image, this –  quite witty, metaphysical
but over the heads of desperate protestors,
like an soldier’s callous bullet, or refined Armani politics.



I, You, S/He: A Language Test in Time of Strife

Kenya, February 2008

Rewrite this sentence as a question:
I should kill you.

Next, correct this split infinitive:
To clearly know what’s wrong.

Reverse the pronouns in this sentence:
You’ll forgive me.

The infinitive of  Love  is:
Love; To Love; Be Loved; Despise?

Note down five synonyms for Neighbour
and five antonyms for  Hate.

Select a word from those in brackets
and insert it in this sentence:
I _______ my fellow humans
(Murder; Rape; Displace; Respect.)

Last: if a Person is the key to peace
determine if it’s  I  or  You  or  S/He
(tick any one, or two, or three.)




Kenya, January 2008

When peace erupted, none of us was ready.
You remember how the sticks above our heads
were gently lowered, how our riot gear
was sloughed-off like a skin?  We rubbed our chins.
     And yet, the dead, they didn’t rise.

Do you recall the day the grandmas of the Rift
embraced the grandsons of Nyeri, 
when the youth were given grants to raise
manyattas they had razed?  We rubbed our eyes.
     But still, the dead maintained their peace.

Think back: the way the Lake and Ocean rose to kiss Mount Kenya’s peak?
The glossy adverts in the Nation and the Standard:
We congratulate our leaders for restoring
Peace and Unity, and all is well in Neverland? 
     The dead began to wake.

Do you remember how they asked us to forget?
In 4-by-4s, Big Men from each and every province
drove a web across the land, their shining 
megaphones proclaiming:  Back to work! 
     The dead were spinning.

And the bishops and the diplomats, the councillors
and businessmen, they gathered for a conference
outside the new Grand Regency and told us
It was all a dream, an error, so now nothing needs be done,
some things just die, are best forgotten.   No?  Come on!!
     You must remember how the landless and the jobless dead
     erupted from their coffins with a shriek?
     You don’t remember?!  Let me help you.
     Hold this gun.  I have a cutting.  Take a peek.




Posted in Kenya. 1 Comment »

One Response to “6 Poems – by Stephen Derwent Partington”

  1. Francis Enane Says:

    I love this, the tension it brings sounds real, the reflection on blocking the destruction from moving far worked out perfect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s