Christopher Okemwa (Kenya)

 
 Christopher Okemwa (Kenya)
 
 Christopher Okemwa is a lecturer of Literature at Kisii University, Kenya. He is the founder and director of Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya. He is the editor of several poetry anthologies and literary journals around the world.
 
His poetry collections include The Gong (Nsemia Inc., 2010), Purgatorius Ignis (Nsemia Inc., 2016), Ominous Clouds (Translated to Norwegian, Finnish & Greek; Nsemia Inc., 2018); The Pieta (Translated to Armenian Narcis, 2019), and A Withering Rose (Translated to Polish and Bohemian Vadnoucí růže; 2019). He has also published a short story collection, Chubot, the Cursed One and Other Stories (Nsemia Inc., 2011). He has published three children’s books: The Visitor at the Gate, Let us Keep Tiger and The Village Queen (Paulines Africa, 2010, 2011, 2013). This is in addition to four oral literature texts, Riddles of the Abagusii People of Kenya: Gems of Wisdom from the African Continent (Nsemia Inc., 2011), The Proverbs of the Abagusii of Kenya: Meaning & Application (Nsemia Inc., 2012) Otenyo the Great Warrior of the Abagusii People of Kenya (Nsemia Inc., 2019) and The Oral Poetry in Africa: the Abagusii of Kenya (Nsemia Inc., 2020). He has also written five folktales of the Abagusii people of Kenya in Ekegusii language: Ogasusu na Oganchogu (The Hare and the Elephant), Ogasusu na Okanyambu (The Hare and the Chameleon), Ogasusu na Okanyang’au (The Hare and the Hyena), Okang’ombe Okanyang’au na Ogakondo (The Cow, the Hyena & the Monkey), and Kerangeti na Kerantina (Kerangeti & Kerantina). Okemwa’s novella, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre, won 2015 Canadian Burt Award for African Literature (Kenya). Its sequel, Sabina the Rain Girl (Nsemia Inc., 2019) was published in 2019. of Literature at Kisii University, Kenya. He is the International Poetry Festival in Kenya. He is the editor literary journals around the world. Gong (Nsemia Inc., 2010), Purgatorius Ignis (Nsemia Translated to Norwegian, Finnish & Greek; Nsemia Inc., Armenian ՊԻԵՏԱ; 2019), and A Withering Rose Bohemian Vadnoucí růže; 2019). He has also published a Cursed One and Other Stories (Nsemia Inc., 2011). books: The Visitor at the Gate, Let us Keep Tiger and Africa, 2010, 2011, 2013). This is in addition to four oral Abagusii People of Kenya: Gems of Wisdom from the 2011), The Proverbs of the Abagusii of Kenya: Meaning Otenyo the Great Warrior of the Abagusii People of Oral Poetry of the Abagusii People of Kenya written five folktales of the Abagusii people of Kenya Oganchogu (The Hare and the Elephant), Ogasusu Chameleon), Ogasusu na Okanyang’au (The Hare Okanyang’au na Ogakondo (The Cow, the Hyena & the Kerantina (Kerangeti & Kerantina). Okemwa‟s novella, Ogre, won 2015 Canadian Burt Award for African Sabina the Rain Girl (Nsemia Inc., 2019) was published workshop in Northern Ireland that was sponsored by 20th International Poetry Festival in Medellin Claus Fund; was a guest poet at the 27th Biennale was again a guest-poet in the 3rd Spring and Poetry visiting poet at the International Poetry Festival of creative writing resident at Faber Writers‟ Residency in that gave birth to this collection of poems, Love from
 
Okemwa participated at a poetry workshop in Northern Ireland that was sponsored by Poets’ House; participated at the 20th International Poetry Festival in Medellin (Colombia) sponsored by Prince Claus Fund; was a guest poet at the 27th Biennale Poetry Festival in Liege (Belgium); was again a guest-poet in the 3rd Spring and Poetry Festival in Istanbul (Turkey); was a visiting poet at the International Poetry Festival of Hanoi (Vietnam); and was a creative writing resident at Faber Writers’ Residency in Catalonia (Spain) — a residency that gave birth to this collection of poems, Love from Afro Catalonia. Okemwa earned his PhD degree in Literature from Moi University, Kenya, with a dissertation titled “A Study of the Kwani? Open Mic ‘Literary- Gangsta’ Performance Poetry of Kenya.” He also holds an MA and a Bachelor of Education degree in literature from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
 
 
I Love You Not as
 
I love you not as one can love a bar of chocolate
Or a mango juice or a banana fruit or a mushroom
Or as one can love roasted groundnuts in a plate
I love you as one can love an exotic dream
In which the dreamer is in a wedding costume
And his bride is fair of face and is in full bloom
 
I love you not as one can love a moon-lit sky
Or a tall tree, or a blue sea or a star in the night
Or as one can love a grasshopper, a termite or a butterfly
I love you as one can love a red ray of sunlight
When the morning, like ripe tomato, bursts in the horizon
And the foot-steps of the last night are long gone
 
I love you not as one can love a song of a bird in the nest
Or the whizzing of a wind or the buzzing of a bee that flits
Or as one can love the whistling of a tree in the forest
I love you as one can love the sound of ghosts and spirits
Who live in the waters of the sea or dwell in the cemetery
And is heard rising and falling at night in a puzzle of mystery
 
I love you not as one can love the aroma of fresh coffee
Or the smell of raw soil or rotten leaves dumped in a pit
Or as one can love the fragrance of a rose or a lilac tree
I love you as one can love the smell of a lover’s armpit
The erotic texture and the feel of its bushy hair
The moist and its rivulets of sweat when she is bare
 
I love you not as one can love a genius work of art
Or a sight of a magnificent city sprawled in the sun
Or as one can love a new pair of shoes, shorts or shirt
I love you as one can love an old tattered photo
In which one is a child playing in a puddle of mud
With an aura of innocence, honesty and Godliness.
 
 
This Morning
 
This morning I woke up
With a sense of loss
I found silence holding the four corners of my room
And a mystery
A sort of Muse
Playing in the light and in the darkness
Between the walls and empty spaces
 
I slipped down from my narrow bed
Quickly ransacked my suitcase for your photos
I couldn’t find any
Scrolled down the screen of my phone
With nervous fingers
I didn’t see one — my cheeks flashed white
 
Looking at the mirror on the wall
A bubbly curve formed at the corner of my mouth
My forehead became bright just like a sunny day
The evidence of desire
For a loved one back home
 
Now seated at the table
I sketch your body on a piece of paper
An imagination of the woman that I love
An expression within me
Of whom I know you have been to me
 
I pencil your thick lips, whiten your
Teeth, circle twin mounds on your chest
Dots your deep sensuous navel
I repeatedly scratch on the pupils of your eyes
Making them dilated, adds more pencil
On the cheeks to make them dazzling and bewitching
 
Shades the hair to make it glossy
Cleaves your forehead with two wrinkles
(You can’t be young forever)
Gives a dark shade to your nose
A light colour to your chin
Then the neck of a swan to stabilize your head
 
I sit back to examine the finished work
My body twitches
I move my lips down
To kiss it
Suddenly I hear a loud sigh from a distance
A silent longing
A lusty act from a lover
With the utterance “l miss you, oh my dear love”
 
 
The Full Moon in Olot
 
Black, dark-grey sky spreads like a sad sea
Sorrowful and grieving
You might think there is no life at all in Olot
And people might all be dead
Suddenly, a full moon thrusts out for you to see
Rafts of clouds start moving
It is beauty of Allah, or creation of the Lord
To display that which He has made
 
It is like you swimming across the sky’s sea
You, your body, shifting
If I be elements that make the sky above Olot
Then I could carry you on my head
Suddenly I cry to the heavens with glee
“Wait, dear! I am coming!”
You quickly hide behind clouds like a shy girl
Who has not before shared a bed
 
I wish I could be an angel in the sky’s dark sea
To capture you before leaving
Or be the stars, or meteors or rain-drops above Olot
Then for you I could have tears to shed.
 
Copyright © 2020 Christopher Okemwa
All rights reserved.
 
 
About the translator
 
Pau Sabaté is a philologist and translator. He translates mainly from Ancient and Modern Greek, but also from English, into Catalan and Spanish. His translations include Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ (Adesiara, 2017) and The Iliad (La Casa dels Clàssics, 2019).

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