We knew the battle was lost
when doors and windows puked
Thatch became wings
of fire that refused to furl
for the drizzle.
waving logs with crimson tongues.
The sun rose too late
to test its rays against
embers glowing in
© Harriet Anena
Coming up in a collection about the two-decade Lord’s Resistance Army war in northern Uganda.
Is it our secret
cracking your bedroom
wall like leprosy?
Did the wall see me
that night like
an experienced thief,
face half covered by
hat rim and designer shades?
Did it hear the light tap
of my shoes on tiled stairs,
the hurried welcome,
snap of buttons and
thudding of hearts?
Does it remember
my muffled moans
the flow of tears inwards and
you grunting, ‘cum quickly before she finds us’?
How could I make the peak,
when instead of mine
you called her name,
smacked my ass
when I didn’t say ‘yes baby’
until I did?
How could I sprinkle, when
you groped my head for
hair full and silky like hers
breasts soldierly and disarming like hers
skin soft on touch like hers
found none and demanded
‘what happened to you?’
How can I delete the chapter of
that night on third floor when
the face of your gate man asking
‘sister, what is this you’re doing to yourself’
never leaves my mind?
I told my sister,
Okot plunged his tongue in my mouth when I was 13. He called it a kiss
He inserted his hands in my blouse and tried to make dough out of my breasts.
He called it romance
My sister said,
Why are you telling me this now, 17 years later?
I told my sister,
My stomach wasn’t strong enough to empty the secret and
my mind did a good job helping me forget
My sister said,
I’m going out to throw up
I told myself,
My own vomit has been stuck in my throat since 1999 when
the man my cousin calls a husband introduced me to The Other Chapter.
I am chocking on laughter that’s too demoralised to leave my mouth
Yesterday l was bloated whole day on laughter that was too high on hope to stagger out of my mouth
Months earlier, l’d hoarded my laughter, certain you’d finally leave the High Table so l can take a bite and laugh a proper laugh
Hope can be hopeless
Now l know
So please understand if my mouth remains locked
It’s just that l am ashamed
My laughter may come out constipated
My laughter may come out exhausted
My laughter may come out kwashiorkored
My laughter may come out aged and wrinkled
I’m sure you understand
That 3 decades is not a short time to keep laughter jailed in the prison of ones’ mouth
Do accept my stomach-felt congratulations
As you take take another bite of delicacy from the High Table
My lover has screwed me so hard, for so long I feel his semen rise in my throat
And now I walk with a stagger, drunk on fermented manhood
Waiting for my middle finger to dig out the vomit lingering in my throat
Last time I zipped up my womanhood he said,
Come on beloved, stop the defiance
This is my last term in your State House
Kampala is a lover with bad breath
Firm hands that know how to cup a face before a kiss
He’ll breathe that thing Besigye hates into your eyes
You’ll love the pearl of seven hills that dot his compound
The Lake Victoria Jacuzzi in his backyard
The flashy cars that defy potholed roads
His deep pockets make many hold hands in awe of his wallet
But don’t forget
He’s a late riser. 9:00am on the road for a 7:30am strategic meeting
Respect his right of way. Even on that jam-packed one-way street
Kampala is my sweet hopeless lover
Can I bring him home?
I overheard the neighbours say you’ve finally ditched the missionary style of doing things
Mbu you have been going around the countryside, dropping sacks of manna to cast out poverty
They were even praising Judas, your beloved Iscariot, that he’ll clean the mess in appointments
But what will you tell them,
when news trickle in that the Messiah returned last night without warning
and endorsed your former partner-in-chaos instead?
What will you tell the people
when they hear that the devil sneaked into your ballot boxes
and voted for the enemy instead?
I know you may be tempted to give way to those going forward
I hope you still remember the first commandment
- The Lion of Kyankwanzi must never change its yellow spots
I lie in the arms of my lover, my feet playing with sand on the shores of Lake Victoria
He runs his hands through my hair. Pulls at it gently. But his eyes are set at the border, looking for invaders of Migingo
In his left hand is an engagement ring. Diamond. Glittering against the mild afternoon sun. But in his right hand is a canister firmly held, waiting for those walking-to-work
Beloved, I whisper
Make me your Pearl of Africa already
Tickle my feet until I sing Oh Uganda
Afande, he mutters
What is that strange song coming from Kanungu?
It’s #GoForward, Sir! He’s jumped the queue
Honourable has also dropped dead. The shilling has fled the treasury. The Karimojong are dying of hunger
Afande, I plead
Give me a moment alone with my man
I put a blindfold on the face of my beloved. Take off his hat. Untie his boots. I unzip his khaki pants and behold, the National Flag has long risen
Stop! He screams, yanking the blindfold off his face
Am I still sole candidate?
I sit still, my hands frozen on the National Emblem. I watch it rise, and fall, shrink and deflate until it’s just a tiny wrinkled #Ball in my hands
My mind is a blanket of nimbus clouds, uncaging a rainfall of memories we share
My heart is a field of roses, bursting open under the sun of your stare
My head is a jail cell, its locked doors a reminder I’m a convict of affection