Saigon desires the Savannah

A host of hooves claps and raises dust in the horizon… dry blades of grass stuck between their teeth, seated on a hot black rock whiling away the time, two friends cool off under an umbrella tree.

Bunduki:     Have you ever known despair?

It cloaks you like the musk of a young bull elephant in heat. Pierces the soul like the tip of a stout tusk!

Tembo:        Chuckles

Ah! My friend, is there a being that has not been driven mad by the affections of despair?

Bunduki:    Sighs sadly…She is a cruel lover!

Tembo:       … a fleeting affair.


A light breeze blows… a swirl of dust flies about their feet, like a beautiful dancer running off gently.

Bunduki:     Sighs sadly, loudly.

This affair rips the air rat-a-tat-tat. It drives me mad!

My desire hides out in the dangerous Savannah lands; rips my being apart. I long for my desire to fly away to the land of dragons. My desire longs to adorn the hilts of its admirers with stark ivory trinkets; conquering the lengths of their darkened barrels!

Tembo:        What causes this level of despair? Are you struck by an illicit love?!

Smiles brightly, cheekily.

Bunduki:     No. Yes. No. No.

Looks embarrassed. Shuffles feet raising a small dust storm.

My children cause me despair, they yearn not for the settling of their shiny bodies resting in their organised wooden beds. They yearn for the heat on their bottoms… they yearn to bring me shades of jade.

Shades of jade to adorn my palace and cloaks of three-fourths of cotton and linen. This is my despair.


The trees sway slight. A bird call in the distance warns of danger; the lions are on the hunt.

Tembo:         My friend, you speak in twists and turns. What is this despair you speak of?

Bunduki:      Stands and turns suddenly. Paces back and forth.

Clenches and unclenches fists then blurts excitedly

                      Sacrifice! Your beauty! You my friend!

Tembo:        Looking nervous, cringes, shifts and moves away slightly, tentatively… 


Bunduki:    Yes, sacrifice.

Tembo:       What type of sacrifice?

Bunduki:     Gesticulates wildly.

You my friend. The sacrifice of life. You. You who will travel to the land of Saigon, to decorate beautiful women and give mythical healing.

Tembo:        Stammers … b-b-b-but you are my friend, my sworn protector…

Bunduki:    That is why I must have you!

Three ululations is all I got?

Riririri! whoop! yippee!

Three ululations is all I got, not five, three.

I was one of the many, so I guess I was enough.

Sweet as spice, coloured by the night, unboxed, I was enough.

Three ululations – riririri! whoop! yippee!

Stretching the length of growing shins.

Sweet rings circle spiced boxes coloured by the night,

One of the many but no longer enough.

Circular, over-booked and ringless, not enough.

Three ululations vibrate the depths of my night shaded body

I am one of the many, I was once enough.

No longer enough, sorry to be one of the many.

Three ululations distant as my past;

My present perceived, unboxed and un-ringed.

Sweetly spiced and coloured by the shade of night.

I am one of the many but no longer sorry – three ululations is what I had riririri! whoop! yippee!

Wangari Maathai

I know you are unbowed, but I will bend you to my will.

I will stretch your strength until the hunger at freedom corner bows you

I know you are unbowed, but I will eat you from the inside out;

I will permeate every cell. No matter how high the Kennedy airlifts take you,

I will bow you.

I know you are unbowed, I know you will not cower;

you with your fully breathing trees and your pitiful rallying cries,

I will bow you.

I have bowed your opined craziness and your many firsts,

your 50 accolades I have broken into 71 million pieces.

I will bow you, I have bowed you, I am bowed by you!

Puppies at my feet

…waking up to the silence of the after-morning rush, that perfect moment,

that moment before the sun takes full flight, I gently shift my numb feet, my eyes closed, careful to let sleeping dogs lie.

… too late … that silent moment as his gently smell of his coffee tickles my mind awake, as the dawn is reluctantly retreating, I am nudged awake.

A pattering of paws on my chest, a soft whimper of love… the sweetness of a cool nose on my cheek, loyal loving eyes waiting for mine to emerge from their hiding spot… that quiet moment, with puppies at my feet.

Your Justice!

I stood in line, let the scorching sun beat me down

to give you power, you swallowed it greedily, hungrily.

Now you repose on scented pillows, seeking the relief of your cooled trappings

While I sit at your feet and beg for scraps … I should be so lucky!

This is the price I pay for justice, your justice.

My raggedy pockets hide from your claws searching for every bead of sweat.

I give it freely, forcibly, unknowingly, cheerily, all for your scented existence.

My diseased body falters, no matter… manicured hands tend to your slightly sore wrist

My sweaty armpits and tired smelly feet keeping your wrist glued to your nose.

This is justice, your justice!

Your full pregnant belly eyes me cheekily, speaking a loud hello to my fetid hungry breath.

My foul smell and rumbling stomach offend you, I shy away in shame.

My questioning mind is dulled by your absence; your haughty stare all but silences me

I stretch my aching back, bent by my herculean efforts to let you stand on it,

This is the price I pay for justice?



A month to 40 and I am crying out for a new way, a new life, a new world.

A month to 40 and the whisper of a new life calls to me. I feel the gentle brush of the soft lips of change happen on my soul; life stirs in me and awakens love in me, a month to 40.

I question my existence, no longer worried about tomorrow, or wondering what happened to yesterday. Wanting to live for today. My mind longs for freedom, routines have torn my soul to pieces, my heart can no longer bear the rising tides of worldly demands and my heart cries out, a month to 40.

A month to 40 and I am crying out for a new way, a new life, a new world. A new love calls to me, it calls to me on a blowing wind, refreshes my spirit with the aroma of a fresh breeze, gently kisses my mind, whispering secrets of change, a month to 40 and I am reborn.

The truth of our souls

Behind our eyes lies the truth of our souls. Oh how we forget the truth.

We spin yarns and tales, we tell stories, stories that are of the past and not of the present. Stories that reek of human weakness in all its forms. The truth lays buried, remains hidden in the darkest recesses of our minds, waiting.

We tell stories of the human soul, we hide in our stories our weaknesses. Cloth our desires with finely spun threads, telling of our bravery, love and sacrifice… with righteous indignation… fallacious stories.

Spinning yarns of days past, we tell stories of the human soul. Truth lingers in darkness, its story twisted and long forgotten in our memories. We banish to the dark recesses of our minds the stories of human weakness… fallacious tales of the past and not the present.

Behind our eyes lies the truth of our souls. Oh how we forget the truth. Telling stories of the past, cheering in our falsehoods and lies.

The truth, living in the dark will burn as the light of our souls fades. It will burn as we hide behind fine clothes of bravery, love and sacrifice… fallacious yarns.

Oh the folly of human weakness.

Excerpt from the short story ‘The truth of our souls’ by Natalie Mathenge