Jonathan Kariara

The mountain was nothing.

A tuft of white hair on

A crony’s head, craggy

The outcrops the carved veins

On an old man’s foot.


The ranges lay west.

And now, remembering

The rectangle of darkness

That was the kitchen door, ajar

Remembering the arch

Of the sky, blue and still

So still the near sky trembled.


The sun’s drama was brief.

Torrid colours of gold at sunrise

Gold at the end of day. at evening

The sun rolled over the ranges

Beckoned back, trembling

Folded over

Was lost.


A little wind swept past the cheek

A slight, sickening shudder like fear.

Then darkness.


The days were incredibly long

And still.

The ranges were a misty blue

Arching touching the sky

A dapped cloth of blue on blue

Trapped in the clam gaze of day.


And here, where we stood,

The grass was bleached brown

Glinting and shard – like

Drawing blood from naked toes.


In the valleys gunshots exploded.


But scattered here in the yard

Were broken images

Sunshine so intense it was white

Was everywhere

A strange distillation form blue sky.


The path to the house was lined.

Upright cedar trees

So still, so green

-silver is not water –

why were these sticky clusters

of green leaves

so dark with succulence?


My mother had once said

My grandmother had told it  often

That near the crossing on thagana river

Was a dark, smooth stone

In which a spirit lived.


Would eat you  shadow

Freezing you, and


Would pull you to the gorge

Down, down, below

Where foam and steam broiled.


But here, where we stood

We only had the sky.


In the valley they were shooting.

And blood which had coursed the veins

Of young men

So still – blue for constancy –

Could gush and bubble.


We were trapped

In this white sunshine.

The mission with the belfry above

The valleys and gorges below

And here, on the breast of the ridge



They were shooting the guns

In the valleys.


My kid   brother

- really a nasty brat

When  times where good –

Was so happy


Bobbing  up with joy

At the ricacheting of bullets

Known, but unseen.


“a sten – gun!”

He would cry

We loved him then.


These fields, this yard

This beaten-down path to the mission

-naked feet had done it –


why had sunshine peeled

strewn the paths with poison

activating that which when dead

we can forever embrace?


Where was smoke in the fields?

Was this not the time for hoeing

When earth is dry and cracked

Sharpening the hoe

Even as the man wields


Making earth shudder?

-that is love, for you


guns were exploding.


And time


Was heavy on our hands.


There was ten 0’clock to fill.

In better times

The sick child

Would go

To the hospital

And Titi

Gentle and big

Would dress your toe

-how white  the bandage –

give cough mixture

to that other one

the medicine to rot

on the window sill


the chest was still.


He would scrub his fat, generous fingures

Wi[e them on a white white cloth

And send you home with a

Tiny smile

Ridiculous below a forehead so high.


mid-day was the worst hour.

The heart, which at morning beat

With the gentleness of dark-sleep

Of the night before

Would at this hour

Be pitched against

The senselessness of day

Which had climbed  the skies

Had eaten blue food

Was tipping over

To darkness at seven 0’clock

And crickets: shrill

And those who walked the night

And horror of death in the dark

And warm blood seeping through flagging fingers.


There were gardens to till

Hoes to wield

Cows to calve

Sheep to break the pot.

But he times were changing

And guns were singing

So we sat at home