at the edge of
the rose bed
Tag Archives: Poetry of Cindy Keong
rock pools hold
a piece of the sky
In this place of double standards and no
welfare; life as a single mother is a precarious
dance on the blade of a double-edged sword.
Yet, when Aggie walks the
roads of Sinon her back is
straight her head held high.
She dreams of a future in the eyes of
her 4 year old son, Nelson Mandela.
His name-sake, her hope.
For him her feet do not hover over
paths inclined to shift without notice, her gaze
does not drop to the critic’s stare.
Today we arrive at Aggie’s as
the last images of dusk bleed into
the inkiness of a starless night.
Her accomplished smile and the glow
of a kerosene lamp unveils her
newly built home, her palace.
A two roomed hut; dirt floors,
no windows, the only air circulating
through the gap between rafter and roof.
Her kitchen a camp stove
assembled on the floor between
lounge chairs and a secondhand bed.
As we devour the delights of mutton pilaw and
coconut rice; we know this moment has less to
do with the house, the company the meal;
this is the moment where we share
the first tastes of her
Short rains have arrived. Tired of
waiting the dry earth refuses to
part her lips.
With wings raised in
surrender, wadudu forfeit
Children pluck at the air with
the same enthusiasm a
bat has for ripened fruit.
Discarding wings with surgical
precision, they return home
guarding a coffee tin full of spoil.
With a salt shaker ready and a
crackling fire; wide-eyed children
watch wadudu explode like popcorn.
* wadudu – (insects)
All morning, higher than
the heads of executioners,
the sun rose above bearded men,
the raw iron of their machines
and fell without an echo
at dusk on the shoulders
of a grim highway.
Tired bodies fold in, as the Chevy
engine screams in second gear.
The halogen glow of headlights
casts shadows over tree roots,
broken veins on paper thin skin.
On wooden crosses, on the surface
of wolf-toothed swamps, on the cold edge
of a starving child; black threatens, always.
What death hasn’t tainted, dust suffocates.
They remember nights on the soft graves
of children, brushing blades of grass
from their knees, how they could catch
a piece of sky if they weren’t so alarmed.
Terror tattooed in the eyes of their women;
long gone the gentle sway of hips
beneath cotton dresses; bodies tensed and
expectant only, to cradle shadows.
All is silent where the dead lie under their strict
burden of rememberance. Beyond the barb
wire fence, traffic roars and the country goes
about its business with its usual noise.
* a collaborative poem written with Graham Nunn
Election Eve in Arusha, dusk settles on
the frayed edges of town, the main street banked with
traffic; people on foot flood streets and
roads like rain into gutters after drought.
Roadside fires flicker, support
smokescreen policies, loudspeakers
assault ears with promises,
masquerading as hope.
Confidence only, in locks on
doors, peeling tinted windows and Graci
a Tanzanian passenger I met 3 hours before; all
meagre protections for a Mzungu after dark.
Wedged between traffic and
pedestrians, men bang fists on
the bonnet; eyes wide with
intent and now excuse.
Crisis over, relief settles firmly on my
shoulders, Graci until now a silent witness,
utters, Jesus, Jesus, her voice
a well scratched record.