David’s muse strikes again


In Eldoret, a youth leans on matatu,
As if his hands are engine power;
As if his push will make it move.

Three boys nyuma SUV,
Standing by National Oil,
As if they are its brakes,
Take hold to slow it down;
Six hands of strength;
Then leap aboard,
The same hands thrown
Aloft in triumph,
Laughing their victory.

A man steps out bara barini,
Pointing imperious finger
As if its power will stop
My heavy car.
And I oblige, my squealing brakes
A witness to his manual might.

A shuttle driver,
Lowered window
On his right,
Drapes his wrist across his door,
His dangling hand in speeding air,
And gestures elegantly,
A signal wave to me, behind,
As we approach Naivasha –
“This is the time for overlapping”
I bib my horn as I go by,
He hoots back in return,
As if we both are
North Rift Ibis.

Wageni stop their car,
On murram road
Out in the shamba,
Seeking directions
In their mother tongue.
A farmer leans his jembe
Sweating; speaks,
And pushes at its side,
As if he too can point its nose
Towards its destination.

Rafiki zangu,
Do not be deceived;
Wakenya do not need
To go to other lands,
Not East, nor West;
Our power lies in our hands!

Copyright, © David Cooke, 2015

Kiswahili/Kenglish Glossary
1. Matatu is a PSV, legal limit of pax is 14, usually exceeded by at least 3. Mostly driven at breakneck speed and with total disregard for other road users, they compete with each other to be first to their stages, so as to collect the fares.
2. Nyuma = behind, to the rear
3. Bara barini = the main road, onto the tarmacked road
4. Overlapping means overtaking
5. Wageni= travellers/visitors
6. Shamba = out in the rural areas, boondocks, literally, ‘fields’
7. Jembe = digging tool, different from a Northern hemisphere spade
8. Rafiki zangu = my friends, a common form of address in Kenya, people from the US would probably say, ‘guys’
9. Wakenya = Kenyans

One additional explanation – there is much debate in Kenya about bad relations with the “West’ and getting investment and loans, without moralising, from the East – which usually means China (PRC).


10 thoughts on “David’s muse strikes again

  1. Really enjoyed this. I could clearly picture the scenes in my mind’s eye, hearing the voices & the attitudes of the people you are bustling along with day to day. Definitely needed the reference key but even without it I would still be able to understand by inference. Glad the muse returned. 👏

  2. Dear David, Kiswahili yako iko misuri kabisa! Unajua motocar “Ford Anglia”? Watu wa  Uganda wasema “Angeleia” (lookout!!). Matatu yawakenya iko Ford  mze sana? Mimi iko Mze na Kiswahili Kyange iko mbaya sana sasa! PS I have been wondering about forwarding yours to “Food for the Hungry” friends working in Maisha Bora in Kenya as I think they might like it! Would you you be happy if I did? “Obwogenda bulyembwa na iwe olyembwa”  (Lutoro from Uganda) -when you go where they eat dogs you also eat dogs. All best wishes and thanks for your regular news also, Bob |

  3. A picture in words that made me miss my Kenyan friends and want to be back in Elburgon. We had a meal with Adrian and Pauline in Chichester last week. Went on to sit outside pub and I chatted to family nearby they were gypsy’s and we had a great end of evening chatting to them.Then they got in their pick ups wishing us luck in the lottery and walking off with their beer glasses. Every culture has its funny moments 😏

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