‘Ghosts of Jeevanjee’ is a gripping poem by Sheila Nyanduaki Okong’o (Kenya) that ranked second at the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award Contest 2015.
You knew he would visit you,
sitting on the concrete bench, alone, pretending to be immersed in an old book
He greets your silence like an old friend
and stays there.
He will bother to describe the trees to you
each one of them
points at the shrubs by your feet and say- choose the one that speaks to you most and I’ll give you its name.
The sun will burn your back for attention
the ants will pilgrimage up your skin like hungry hands
but you will do nothing about it.
He will tell you this- when the imminent rain comes, don’t run away from it
allow it to wash your shadow clean
until it no longer darkens the ground above you.
And that even there,
in the midst of love oaths
hands pressed together in worry
‘I am the bread of life’ sermons
thieves with no faces
memories of sex
great jokes told with closed mouths
smooth stones and potted flowers.
you will find two friends:
Wrath, which burns but is sweeter
and Mercy, which suffocates but is lighter.
and it will give you your name.
© Sheila Nyanduaki Okongo