Friday, November 26, 2010

Raise the Titanic (poem)

I turned eighteen yesterday and,man,am I hang over!
The house looks as if someone had a very lively bar-mitzvah.
if the mess was any worse, some terrorists could claim responsibility!
I'm so glad my parents agreed to sleep out and give us some privacy.
Some of my friends are still lying passed ot on the livingroom floor;
They look like the forgotten dolls of a girl who doesn't need them any more.

The rising sun takes on a new meaning this day:
It symbolises my 'new dawn', you might say.
I feel like a young lion joining a hunt for the first time.
Eighteen,eighteen -a teenager in his prime.
I can now drive, vote, belly up to a bar, be jailed for crime.
Tinker, tailor, soldier, president - I can be anything I want to be.

Call me young and restless but I'm like the sun rising above our home:
A mass of nuclear reactions, mine from hormones.
I'm going to do great things - you can count on it.
I'm going to climb Mt.Everest, be a motivational speaker.
I'm going to revolutionalise and industry - like Lee Iacoca.
I'm going to raise the Titanic!
But first, I'm going to clean up the house before my parents arrive.
To them, it makes no difference whether I'm eight or eighty-five.

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Poetic License (poem)

What is this “Poetic License” authors use at will?
Is it comparable to James Bond’s “License to Kill”?

“Poetic License” is one of the spices we use
While preparing a savoury dish of literary food.
“Poetic License” is one of the writer’s best tools –
It makes poetry enjoyable and memorable, not just “good”.
“Poetic License” is permission to take the Queen’s English
And make it yours; prepare caviar from the eggs of a fish.
“Poetic License” is a net to catch the wind,
It’s a tune to make your words dance like a fiend.

I’m not certain, but I think what you’re trying to say
Is that it allows you to use words in your own unique way.

Precisely! Instead of using the dictionary meaning, then,
You massage the words, wine them and dine them.
Instead of saying, “He just managed to beat the deadline,”
You could say, “He caught the tail of the deadline.”
An elusive sun “plays hide-and-seek with the clouds”,
Your teenage daughter’s music is “apocalyptic”, not just loud,
A falling item is “gravity’s guest” (especially if it’s really high),
A blazing white-hot sun shines like “God’s own eye”,
The full moon “caresses the bossom of the ocean,”
A group of stationary helicopters is a “nest” (if they’re about ten),
Torrential rainfall is “hellfire”, a ocean wave is a “scroll”,
A storm is a “holocaust” and cascading human hair, a “waterfall”.  

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Ms. Ann Christian is a Chameleon and a Half (poem)

Ms. Ann Christian next door is a chameleon and a half.
Every morning, in a long dress and white headscarf,
She kneels beside her bed and prays in earnest
But that part of the day is clean from the rest:
She’ll break any given commandment in a heartbeat
And I’m told that gossip is her bread and meat.
Her contradictory behaviour got me thinking:
Do we constantly avoid the road that leads to sinning
Or are we just pious in the morning?

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Missile from North Korea (or ‘Uncle Kim’s Song’)

They say that the danger is present and clear:
Nuclear annihilation is drawing near.
What these hawks are not saying on air
Is that you’re more likely to be killed by a drunk driver
Than a missile from North Korea.

Every nation stocks missiles for its own welfare
It doesn’t meant we’re ruthless like a bear:
Even the Korean Conflict was a Russian-American affair.
After more than five decades in the espionage game,
Here’s the best intelligence ‘product’ I can share:
Eastern or Western, people are basically the same,
We all want the world to be more sane –
It’s current state is a crying shame.
Even after the Cold War, hostilities didn’t wane:
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m running blind, involved in a cat-and-mouse game
Against my own country; you can imagine my pain.
The evidence against me is a tissue of lies
But “watchers” keep following me like flies
And a criminal trial ahead of me lies.
I’ve suffered the fate of too many spies –
Going unseen, unheard, unappreciated, unsung,
After sacrificing our time, energies and even lives.
Now I know what Graham Greene meant
When he called espionage the “territory of lies”.
To fully appreciate this poem, read Alexander Nderitu's award-winning short story, 'Life as a Flower' (

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Love on a Small Island (poem)

Now dis here story is about a young woman
Who I met right here on dis island in de Caribbean.
Her name be Tamara and she pretty as a sultana:
I fell in love de instant I saw her.

By profession, the beautiful Tamara be a dancer
And she was dancing for some tourists de first time I saw her.
She was part of a troupe but she shone like a lone star;
Dere was a smile on her face, a flower in her hair.
Her smooth angelic hands swayed gently through de air
And she tossed her hips around like a belly dancer.
De way her reed skirt swished around set mi body on fire!

That night, I had de most terrible fever:
Either, I had fallen in love or I had caught malaria.
I still hadn’t spoken to Tamara ‘cause I was in a dilemma:
I was wondering how she would react if I told her I loved her.
If she accepted mi, I and I would be in clover
But if she said, “No”, I would explode like a volcano.

Next morning, while listening to de sound of calypso,
I pondered on what strategy to use in order to get Tamara.
I remembered in school de girls liked de love story by Shakespeare
So I decided to re-enact de balcony scene.
Shortly after dark, I appeared under Tamara’s bedroom window,
Completely prepared to lay mi soul bare,
But just then a billy-goat began to bray.
The situation worsened when I tried to shoo it away:
It turned out to be pretty brave and chased me around a coconut tree!
(Tamara just laughed instead of helping me.)

De very next morning, with a poem in my hand,
I went out looking for the queen of my heart.
Mi fever was really bad but I was adamant –
I wouldn’t rest until I had won over this daughter of Africa;
I was King Solomon and she would be mi Queen of Sheba.

I found Tamara and her troupe by the sea
And she looked real good, doing the hoola dance in a bikini
While a reggae band celebrated rastafarian roots and culture.
I took Tamara aside and told her that if King Solomon saw her,
He’d have to write ‘Song of Solomon, Part Two.’
I then proceeded to read de poem I had put on paper:
‘Roses be red, violets be blue…’
But before I could reach, ‘Tamara, I love you,’
I got real sweaty and passed out from de Babylon fever.
(Turns out I really did have malaria!)

Not to worry, mi brothers and sisters,
Collapsing turned out to be Jah’s blessing, not a disaster:
Sweet Tamara now daily takes care of me!
She visits mi every morning and again in de evening,
Checking on progress and stroking mi dreadlocks
As I lie helpless under a life-size portrait of Haile Selassie.
Truth be told, I got cured a week ago but Tamara doesn’t know -
I love de attention so much, I’m not letting her go.
Who says dere is no love in de time of malaria?

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Love My Rifle More Than You (Lyrics)

‘You’ll never mean anything but misery to any man.’ – Rhett Butler to Scarlet O’Hara in ‘Gone With the Wind’

The letter arrived at 2200 hours GMT.
At that time, he was still engaged with the enemy.
The contact area was lit up like a Christmas tree:
There were explosions everywhere, the chatter of an S60…
The shelling was some of the worst since World War Two,
The infantry signaled each other to avoid a blue-on-blue;
They looked like characters in a movie by John Woo.
Making it back to camp, relieved that he wasn’t dead,
He received the letter and opened it. It read:

‘Dear John, I’m sorry but you and I are through
Don’t take it personal – it’s me, it’s not you.
I know we had plans for when the war was done:
We were going to get married, have a daughter or a son,
But I’m, afraid there’s been a change of plan.
I’m going to marry a lawyer by the name of Dan.
I can’t be a soldier’s wife – I’m sure you understand.
Wondering if you’ll return is more than I can stand.
The wedding’s tomorrow so I really gotta run
And by the way, greetings from your Aunt Susan.
She says things are okay back at the farm
And she prays that the war will soon be won…’

Now the young combatant, he was all torn up inside
‘Cause that beautiful lady was his joy and pride.
He wanted to get back at her for being so cruel
So he asked his fellow soldiers what he should do
And they came up with a plan that’s sure to amuse you:
They brought out all the photos of their hot girlfriends
Some of whom looked good enough to eat with a spoon
And the young soldier sent those pictures back
With a letter that went into the diplomatic sack.
She received the letter and opened it. It read:

‘Dear Jane, I’m sorry but I’m rather confused
I have to confess that you’re just one of the girls I’ve used.
Please go through the photos and send back the one of you
‘Cause to be honest, I don’t remember which one was you
And I’m really glad you’re marrying Kwan or is it Dan?
You may not love soldiers but you need us – it’s true .
The only reason things are peaceful back at the farm
Is because I’m here, risking all to protect you from harm
You don’t have to thank me, I’m proud of what I do.
Truth be told, I love my rifle more than you!

S60 – an anti-aircraft gun
Blue on blue – Accidentally shooting your fellow soldiers
Contact area - battlefield
GMT – Greenwich Mean Time, also known as “Zulu” time to the military
‘Dear John’ letter – a letter written to someone to break up with them


(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Life in C Major (poem)

Scientists have finally come up with 'a theory of everything’. Called the Hyperstring or Superstring Theory, it basically states that all the major laws of physics (gravity, electro-magnetism, nuclear forces etc) are like the individual strings of a guitar. The music that emanates when the guitar is played (by God?) is what we interpret we interpret as our physical universe.

Hmm…No wonder some people find music in everything and everything in music….

MAIN PIECE (Composed and arranged by Alexander Nderitu):
Through a barren sky sailed the BA flight from Heathrow.
Lady Cuthbert, a wealthy divorcee who wore hats as wide as a sombrero,
Turned sideways to her 17-year-old daughter, Rosaline, and said:
‘Oh, do cheer up, darling, you’re not on Death Row!’
‘Why do you always drag me along, mom?’ queried the young maid.
Ms. Cuthbert was a rolling stone – and I don’t mean a rock star.
One month she’d be in Mauritius and the next in Mexico.
She had probably accumulated more frequent-flyer miles
Than Salman Rushdie running away from his famous fatwa.
‘You’ll absolutely adore Spain,’ she said, gesticulating widely.
And to the stewardess: ‘Darling, fetch me another sherry and don’t be stingy.’
The next couple of weeks were spent in sun-kissed Marbella
Where Lady Cuthbert drank one sherry after another.
On seeing her bored daughter through an alcohol haze she said:
‘Why don’t you go to the beach or something, darling?’
There’s a place down the street where you can learn the piano.'
And that was how Rosaline came to meet Alberto.
She had always loved music and Alberto taught with such pasión.
He had no criticism, only encouragement: ‘Perfecto, perfecto!’
He showed her how to play the piano and dance flamenco:
‘Senorita Rosaline, you have the grace of an angel.’
It wasn’t until Lady Cuthbert was ready to move on
That she realized that her daughter had fallen in love.
Mother and daughter engaged in a showdown.
Words were exchanged and sherry was gulped down.
When the dust had settled, Lady Cuthbert flew out alone.
Rosaline married Alberto and settled in Spain.
As the black and white keys of the piano are both need to make music,
Those two dissimilar souls combined to produce the music of love.
Their life had its sharps and flats – it wasn’t all smooth sailing –
But they stuck together through sunshine and rain.
Whatever they lost – money, temper, youth, the occasional bet –
They had their music and it was their magic carpet.
Once, as a deluge laid waste to the town of Marbella,
Alberto played Johann Bach’s 'Prelude in C Major’
While Rosaline stood silhouetted against the window,
Her back to the relentlessly falling bullets of water,
Twirling her curly English hair and smiling at her matador.
And when the classic piano piece came to a close,
Albert smiled and blew a kiss to his ‘English rose.’
This year, the couple celebrated their fortieth anniversary
And Lady Cuthbert sent her congratulations from Italy.
(The old dragon has refused to die!)
Rosaline and Alberto now rejuvenate marriages on the brink
And their chosen medium is – you guessed it – music;
Dissenting couples come to learn how to sing and dance flamenco.
Rosaline’s brush-but-helpful approach has made her quite famous:
‘Alfonso, dance with your own wife – this is Couples Therapy not Swingers Anonymous!’
And, ‘Feminine grace is the watchword, Mrs. Ricardo.
There’s a fine line between breakdance and canté jondo.
Think of a reed being swayed back and forth by the wind:
You’re the reed and the music is the wind.’
And all this while Alberto strums his guitar, the husbands tap their shoes,
Spectators clap and the wives dance with the grace of flamingoes.
Feel the music.

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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I Can (lyrics)

Title: I Can
Band: The Alexander Nderitu Overture
Genre: Rock

I can touch the sky if I want to
I can swim the English Channel if I want to
I can climb the Seven Summits if I want to
But I can’t make up your mind for you

Uh uh, Uh uh
Na na, Na Na

Last night at the club, things got out of hand
But, baby, please try to understand
Seeing you dancing with other guys drove me round the bend
And I said some things I shouldn’t have said
I totally lost my cool, acted just like a fool
I should it into my head
That there are many things I can do
But I can’t change what’s inside of you
(I can’t… I can’t … I can’t … I can’t change what’s inside of you)

I can touch the sky if I want to
I can swim the English Channel if I want to
I can climb the Seven Summits if I want to
But I can’t make up your mind for you

Girl, I’m still in love with you!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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How The Ocean Greets the Land (poem)

Follow me and I’ll take you to see
The variegated ways the ocean greets the land.
Come along and don’t be shy –
Remember when you were a curious child
And had to chase each butterfly!

In Mombasa, where it’s hotter than July,
Green foamy waters lick at the sun-bathers nearby
And bring them gifts of shells, star fish and crabs
Which you can take home. (They’re up for grabs.)

The arrival of waves to the shores of Zanzibar
Varies from lapping at the beach to leaving a scar:
Soft rhythmic waves compare to giant breakers
As a plane's landing compares to a crashing car.

White-capped scrolls roll towards California
And are much loved by adventurous surfers
But they can be quite dangerous, I have heard:
Thank God for the United States Coastguard!

The steep slopes of the Hawaiian Islands
Were shaped by the angry waves that
Tear at the coastline like giant hands,
Grinding rock to shingle and shingle to fine sands.

The shores of Japan have seen so many ‘tsunamis’
That they should now be classified as ‘Public Enemies’.
Funny thing, though: the safest place to be
When a ‘tsunami’ hits is far out in the sea.
If you’re on the beach, you’d better get up and flee!

As you can see, many are the ways
In which this endless ocean-land drama plays:
From white horses to ‘tsunamis’ to salt sprays,
Resulting in everything from sand to cliffs and caves.
And that’s all, folks - I got me a brand-new surfboard
And I’m off to catch some waves.

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Houston, Forget That Other Thing! (poem)

Houston, I have a problem.
It comes in the shape of a girl from Harlem.
Her waterfall of hair is as black as a raven,
Her skin is nut-brown and her eye-brows, silken.
Her eyes gleam when she looks towards Heaven,
Lush red lips part to reveal pearly whites between them.
(I thought she was smiling at me but I was mistaken -
she was waving at a friend I had partially hidden.)
Houston, as you can see, I'm quite taken:
What can I do to lure her into my den?

Houston, forget the last message from me.
Mission Control Centre, I hope you copy.
Delay the next shuttle launch to hear my love story.
The girl from Harlem is mine - finally!
My personal mission is accomplished - hooray!
For the last three months and one day,
Our life has been bright and gay.
We've laughed and talked and strolled by the bay
And today she surprised me in the grandest way:
Her doctor confirmed that she's expecting our baby!

Houston, forget that other thing.
It's been a year now and I've given her my ring,
Our baby is fine but that's not why I'm calling.
You see, our married life was smooth sailing
Until recently when her best friend came visiting.
She's fun-loving and has a career in modelling
And my wife caught us kissing and groping.
NASA, I know you're busy monitoring and probing
But now's not the time for taking off or landing:
Her lawyer called - and a divorce is in the offing!   

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Hero is a Four-Letter Word

‘A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.’ – American inner-city saying

‘Don’t talk to me about heroes
Most of these men sink like subs’
- Black Grape, ‘Kelly’s Heroes’

You may have thought that Spider-man was stoned
When, at the end of his first movie, he intoned
That his greatest gift doubled as his greatest curse
(Like being trapped in a marriage for better or for worse.)
Saving the world often leaves the hero drained and sad:
Sometimes "hero" is a four-letter word.

Superman could make an aeroplane look like a kite
But he became as weak as a child
On being introduced to some green kryptonite.
In fact, EVERY hero has his weakness -
Achilles’ heel, Samson's romantic heart, King David’s lust -
And when that secret thumbscrew is turned,
The hero cries while the villain laughs.

The high-flying Superman was really Clark Kent
And had to keep his feelings for a girl secret
Even though love was all over him like a tent.
Spider-man was actually the nerdy Peter Parker
And soon found himself in the same predicament!
(The masked Zorro also had a similar drama.)

Before turning green, the Incredible Hulk was no catch
And what was He-man without the Powers of Greyskull
Or Popeye without a helping of spinach?
Samson killed many Philistines and torched their corn patch
But when he gave away his secret and his locks were cut,
He became so pathetic, he made the audiences’ toes curl.
(Leave alone lions, he couldn’t kill a domestic cat.)

Like the cartoon heroes who live in duplicity,
Wearing masks to camouflage their real identity,
Real-life heroes also face all kinds of hostility
And would be safer if they had the power of invisibility!
Mandela was jailed, Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated,
Jesus crucified and Caesar stabbed to death in the Senate.
Joan of Arc must have really stirred the people's ire:
They tied her to a stake and set it ablaze and watched
As the flames lit up the night like St.Elmore's fire.

Yes, Spider-man was right about the gift and the curse.
Things are oftentimes not what they seem at first sight.
Sometimes the villain wins while the nice guys finish last.
I guess it all depends on how Fate’s dice is cast.
And those who think that all a superhero does is save the girl,
Slay the dragon and fly around like a bird
Are yet to learn that “hero” is a four-letter word.

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Full Circle (poem)

Fed up with the hustle and bustle of the city,
I resolved go someplace quiet and nifty
Where there would be no loud neighbours,
Competing street preachers, noisy overnight bars,
Door-to-door salesmen, speeding sports cars,
Yelling spouses, belching factories,ringing phones,
And dishonest realtors selling defective homes.
So I switched off my computer in a huff,
Annoyed at pop-ups selling cures for dandruff
And offering me a 'Lifetime Supply of Viagra'.
Telling my better half that I'd terribly miss her,
I packed some clothes and a typewriter
And made for the largest desert in Africa.

I stopped in town for a final "civilised" meal
Because I still had half an hour to kill.
As I took a beef sandwich and a milkshake
I was blasted with more advice than I could take:
'Drink Coke', Watch Your Weight', 'Eat Popcorn',
'Hug a Friend', 'Discover Christ','Shun Porn',
'Read Chomsky', 'Bomb Iraq', 'Use Protection'.
The relentless salvo of unrequested information
Was coming from posters, radio and television
And as I left the cafe covering my ears,
A hawker tried to sell me a CD by Britney Spears
And an insurance agent bored me to tears.

I reached my destination two days later:
An oasis bang in the middle of the Sahara.
No buildings, streets or roads - it was so good
(I had to be air-dropped like relief food).
I was beyond the last microchip and plastic bag,
I was so happy, I gave a tree a hug!
There were several peaceful animals about:
Monkeys, birds, elephants drinking with the snout,
And just as I pulled out my manual typewriter
Thinking that a place to write couldn't be better,
I felt a light tap on my right shoulder
And turned round to find a smiling realtor
Asking if I wanted to rent the oasis now or later!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Forsaking all Others…(poem)

On this, the happiest day of my life,
I gladly take thee to be my lawfully wedded wife
That we may live together in holy matrimony
Whether the coming days be wet or sunny.
From where the sun now stands,
I promise to love you irrespective of life’s shifting sands,
To honour you, comfort you, cherish you
And keep you in sickness and health: I’m prepared.
For as long as we shall both be spared.  

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Flying Jaws (poem)

A good many creatures subsist in the sea;
Some have legs and some have fins,
Some dart about but some hardly move an inch!
But of all these, the most interesting to me
Is the Great White Shark – oh, yes, siree!

“Carcharodon carharias” (“Mr. Shark” to you and me)
Is as big as a bus and shaped like a winged missile
And he can launch himself right out of the sea
As he sometimes does on spotting a swimming seal.
His crescent-shaped mouth has three thousand teeth
And his ‘breaching’ feats leave people in such awe
That they have nicknamed him ‘Flying Jaws.’

I’d love to swim with – or even touch – old sharkie
But I very much doubt that that will ever be:
This sickle-mouthed predator is hardly touchy-feely
And I wonder how he gets kids, being so solitary.
If I dived down to say, ‘Howdie!’
One of his six senses would lock on to me
And those big jaws are the last thing I would see!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Everything You Know is Wrong!

I now understand why too much reading is not recommended:
Everything I thought I knew has been stood on its head.
Want an example? - I‘ll give you ten instead:
Bees are lazy but their buzzing covers a multitude of sins
Black panthers are just leopards with dark skins
School teachers had given up on Albert Einstein
There are more solar system planets beyond Pluto
There are more than seven colours in the rainbow
A guinea pig resembles a real pig as Winter resembles Fall
The universe isn’t infinite after all
You see with your brain not your eyes
(Anyone who says different is spreading lies)
A spider’s silk is stronger than brass
And bamboo is a type of grass.
The way things are going, I might soon learn
That I’m actually some god like Apollo or Pan
Who fell asleep and, in a strange turn,
Dreamt that he was a mortal – a puny “human” –
And that there was life on the third rock from the sun!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Elephant Song (poem)

Father Elephant:
I am the real king of the jungle:
The lion is a pretender to the throne
And the tiger is only boss when I’m not around.
Weighing in at six tones, I have no equal –
If I were an African mountain, I’d be Kilimanjaro.
But I’d like to correct the alarming falsehood
That I’m little more than a stampeding beast.
Finding houses and farms on ancient migration routes
Is what make my anger rise like yeast
And my attempt to pass through is often misunderstood.

Mother Elephant:
A woman’s work is never done!
Unlike the bulls, which live outside the herd,
I have to protect the entire family from harm
Which, believe me, is easier said than done.
With sounds ranging from rumblings to mighty roars,
I communicate with my herd or scare predators.
I considered shedding some weight the Dr.Atkins way
But with one nursing calf and another on the way
I’m back to eating two hundred kilos of food per day.
The extra pounds will come in handy
If a gang of poachers comes my way.

Baby Elephant:
Gee, I wish we go back to the lake soon.
Squirting water through the trunk is marvelous fun
As, indeed, is a nice, long, wallow in clay or mud
But the grownups follow a strict pattern
And as soon as I start enjoying myself , it’s time to return
To feeding or traveling or salt-mining or whatever.
I guess I’ll be just as fussy when much bigger,
With a powerful trunk and long curved tusks, like dad’s,
And then, like him, I can leave the security of the herd.
Is that a pride of lions? I’d better hide under mum’s belly!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Dancing Words (poem)

Late at night, when the event horizon of my mind starts to sizzle
and the lightning seeds of creativity trigger flashes that illuminate
the unending expanse of my imagination,
I am able to reach out and pull creations from lumniferous ether
and it is at such times that I grab my pen and conduct a bizarre dance.

The stage is my loose-leaf notebook and the dancers, my words.
The mental music plays, my pen glides, the words dance.
They move across the stage like ballet dancers twirling
around in their pink tights and ‘princess’ dresses.
Somewhere, a metaphor does back flips while a couple of similies
engage in the electric slide.
Elsewhere, a pun ‘bursts a move’ like a young Michael Jackson.

My ethereal world has all the real fakeness of a flight simulator
and my readers have oftentimes asked me:
‘Are you sure all your characters come from ephemera?’
I’ll admit that my creations are not all ‘products of the author’s imagination.’
I have been known to abduct real people and spirit them to my fictional world,
whereupon, I have camouflaged their identity.

When I am in my ‘creative mode,’ my mind is a dangerous place:
Any idle thoughts or ideas flying past like patrol aircraft are likely
to be sucked into the black hole at the centre of my consciousness
and emerging in another dimension –
Or more accurately, on the page of a book or website
to be read, analyzed and, perchance, appreciated
by lovers of the written word.

But not all my words are as cute as nymphs.
Fed by shocking news accounts from around the globe,
my mind will sometimes twist itself like a DNA strand,
my outraged conscience will groan like thunder and
dark thoughts will rip across my mental suburbs like Force 9 tornadoes
and the my words will be depressing, shocking and often un-publishable.
But my words deserve an audience for I do not exist
if I cannot express myself.
So let my words party like there’s no tomorrow,
let them slide across the dance floor like Russian ice skaters;
Let them dance!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Beam Me Up, Scotty! (poem)

Note: ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ is a catchphrase gleaned from the hit TV series, ‘Star Trek’. A Google search reveals just how popular this catchphrase is.)

Beam me up, Scotty. I’m bored with life down here.
I want to explore the final frontier,
Give a few aliens the intergalactic chase,
Boldly go where no housewife has gone before!

Married straight out of high school
To a financial consultant based in Boston,
Many women think that I’m quite cool,
Attending parties and sipping Dom Perignon.
But, Your Honour, I have an objection!
I feel that I’ve spent my entire life serving others.

When I got married twenty years ago, Scotty,
I never expected to turn into a ‘baby factory.’
Sure, I love my four kids and I love hubby
But I’ve never had a job or even a hobby.
Meanwhile, hubby travels as if he’s running for high office –
My ‘marriage’ to the TV has more marital bliss.

I can see him now on one of our poolside chairs,
Talking and laughing with a grasp of millionaires.
(I’ll bet you didn’t know a group of millionaires is a ‘grasp’!)
Poor man – he’s so busy discussing stock options and stuff
To realize that I’ve gone from his ‘better’ to his ‘bitter’ half,
Not that I intend to ever bring up the ‘d’ word;
I did promise to love him in times good and bad.

Doesn’t time just fly like a supersonic plane?
Yesterday, I was contemplating my first kiss;
Today, I’m on the verge of going through ‘the change.’
Even worse is that my ‘offspring’ are yet to start paying ‘dividends’.
They’ll probably put me in a home and not visit on weekends.

My oldest son is nothing if not a chip off the old block,
He walks the financial walk and talks the talk:
‘Mom, you know you could multiply your money
By converting your savings into investments?
Instead of revering interest like most do,
Discover the NYSE and let your money work for you.’
It’s hard to believe that he’s the same boy
Who used to nag me mercilessly for the latest toy.

My 17-year-old daughter is a Gwen Stephanie clone
Who wants to quit school and start a band of her own.
It takes a village to raise a child, you say?
Please tell the villagers to come and take her away!
Or better still, Scotty – hit me with that beam.
I want to disappear, never to be seen.

I am sick and tired of being a Stepford Wife
I want to do something memorable with my life:
I understand why Emelia Earhart took that fated flight
And why Thatcher wouldn’t back down from a fight.
I’m like a stage actor without a theatre,
Hellen without Troy, Mother Teresa without Calcutta.
I want nothing less than an interstellar adventure!

I’m restless – my energy levels won’t subside.
I am the mighty Pacific at high tide,
Throwing tantrums like 60-foot waves
And crashing down upon the shores of reason –
Oops! Where did that beam of light come from?
Very funny, Scotty. Now beam my clothes back down!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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A Million Times Goodbye (poem)

I came home from work one day to find my wife’s suitcases outside the door.
I dashed in and asked what was going on and she said, ‘I just don’t love you any more.’
I said, ‘Come on, whatever the problem is, we can solve it, see a marriage counselor…’
She went ballistic, yelling: ‘I’m going! Don’t make this harder than it has to be:
Goodbye, sayonara, see ya, one love, Jah bless, farewell, hasta la vista,
Quin 'ec, na'j wetz, g'o i ma de, kwaheri, musa' ku' la, khau bulyghyz, ta-ta, ciao,
Lok reer apth, tot ziens, adios, au se lako mada, bo yi bo wa, au revoir, cheerio,
Auf wiedersehen, fari malshun, su'e je, zoi kien, shalom, peng an, ka odi, chao,
Selamat tinggal, nsaala kiambote, adzzislytödz, nya'aamh, shevbash, aloha,
Ovwa, vale, eddi, puang toi, hágoónee', farvel, nah méchwik, salám, poka, tofa,
Sangke bedait, ayubowan, adjö, matayaa, arvey, rhonanai and sizobonana!’

Needless to say, her sudden desertion really took me aback.
She couldn’t cook or clean but, boy, was she stacked!
She, however, refused to have children, saying they’d ruin her figure.
Anyways, I went to this seminar by a famous motivational speaker
And, pacing to and fro, he cried: ‘A setback is a setup for a comeback!’
I was shouting in agreement when I noticed a lady in the front doing similar.
We talked after the seminar and it turned out she had also been emotionally hurt.
She wasn’t stacked like my ex-wife but she had the most beautiful heart.
Today we have four kids and have vowed to never say “goodbye” to each other.
(I know it sounds weird, but we don’t even say “Goodbye” when we part.)

Words cannot describe my surprise when my ex-wife put in an appearance yesterday.
She said something about letting bygones be bygones and could we be friends?
I told her that the only ‘bygones’ were her looks (Did she expect them to last forever?)
And, no, we couldn’t even be friends – I won’t let my happiness get ruined like her figure.
‘I have the kids I always wanted and sometimes the ice cream van passes by
And they nag me for money and I always give it just to see their faces light up with joy.
As for you: Goodbye, sayonara, see ya, one love, Jah bless, farewell, hasta la vista,
Quin 'ec, na'j wetz, g'o i ma de, kwaheri, musa' ku' la, khau bulyghyz, ta-ta, ciao…
In short, a million times goodbye!’

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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'You can do a lot with hype. You can make superstars of tuneless bimbos. You can sell Teletubby dolls and Mr. Blobby records. You can stand reality so far on its head that the difference between shambling mediocrity and genius is as fine as (a) page of newspaper.' - James Lawton, British Sportswriter

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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          First off, let me inform you that you are very lucky to be hearing this story. I was originally saving it for my autobiography, provisionally titled “Beer and Sausages: A Sort of Life”.

          This section of my memoirs concerns soccer. We actually call it “football” where I come from but I don't want it to be confused with “American Football”, a completely different game played by men with odd-shaped balls.

          Soccer, we're told, is the world's most popular sport. Admittedly, it isn't so hot in North America where sports such as baseball are the real crowd-pullers. I remember watching a vox populi segment on CNN (Continuous Negative News?) some years ago where random Americans were being asked if they knew who Maradona was. The majority hadn't heard of him but the most interesting response came from a talking head who said: “Yes - I like her music.” He was apparently confusing the soccer legend with pop singer Madonna.

          Away from North America, however, soccer is almost a religion, if not one. Even a decidedly regional encounter like Europe's UEFA Cup tournament still finds an echo around the globe. Soccer superstars like Kaka, Ronaldinho, Fernando Torres, David Beckham and Ronaldo rake in millions of dollars in dues and endorsement fees each year while team brands are emblazoned on everything from T-shirts to key-holders.

          In Africa, soccer reigns as the undisputed King of Sports and many are the tournaments that are organised. Unfortunately for my particular country, the gods of soccer have not been kind to us. Our story is that of great expectations unfulfilled and exceptional talent left undeveloped. Not only has our performance in international matches and tournaments been lacking, but in 2004 we were altogether banned by FIFA, soccer's governing body. To this day, when our national team (Harambee Stars) plays against another country, I cheer for the other side. It's not that I'm not patriotic, it's just that I'm pretty certain the Harambee Stars will lose, and I prefer to be on the winning side! Despite the setbacks, football fever runs high here and we boys are introduced to the craze at a very early age. I can recall kicking soft rubber balls around the house when I was knee-high to a kitten.

           In primary school, every break was a soccer break. And since we didn't always have access to the school's supplies, we made our own balls by wrapping nylon paper over a compression of soft paper and then weaving a spider's web of nylon string connections over the mass. Makeshift goal posts were designated using pullovers or shoes and referees were as rare as European royalty at a reggae concert. The name of the game was to have a good time and the rules were flagrantly flouted. Off-sides and other minor contraventions often went uncalled. Teamwork also took a blow because everyone was over-eager to score. And since our female counterparts often watched from the sidelines, “score” was a word that loomed large in our pubescent minds.

          Those who were quick on their feet would generally avoid the main body of players and instead dart along the edge of the field, kicking the ball ahead of them as they went, while the slower ones mastered the art of dribbling and faking moves, only passing the ball when they were cornered by the opposition. Because I wasn't good at dribbling, I was one of the fellas speeding along the rim and trying to get to my opponent's goal area before they caught up with me. Another role I cherished was that of "defender". The defender's job was to hang in front of the goalkeeper at all times, meeting the opposition head-on so that the keeper wouldn't have to deal with too much heat. Because you weren't supposed to leave the goal area, you had the luxury of sitting down in the grass when the ball was far afield, and rarely were you blamed if the opponent's ball managed to find the back of your net. (Of course if the goal was makeshift then there was no actual net but I'm sure you get my point.) And if the ball was one of those paper ones, then unique problems presented themselves: as all golfers and surfers know, the wind is a fickle mistress and cannot be relied upon.

          Finding the back of the opponents' net was important to me and I watched countless hours of “Football Made In Germany” and other televised soccer presentations in order to learn more about scoring tactics. From how far away from the goal should you go for the money shot? If you're close to the goal, should you attempt to flip the ball past the goalkeeper or strike so hard that the goalkeeper has little time to react? These were the kind of questions that ran through my mind. Of particular interest to me was a technique that is still commonly used by strikers while taking penalty shots. They come in, calm and collected, and kick the ball such that it lands in the opposite side from the one the goalkeeper dives in. Many a penalty kick is scored in this fashion. I loved that move so much I just had to try it back at school.

          I got my opportunity when I was 14 and we were using a hockey pitch rather than the usual soccer field. The relative smaller size of the goal the made the chances of scoring anorexic at best. Well, someone from the other side touched the ball with his hand in the course of the match and that being a capital crime in soccer, his team had to be punished through a penalty kick in their goal area. The striker was yours truly and I smiled with savage glee as I assumed my position a few metres in front of the confident goalkeeper.

          Understand first that a professional goalkeeper handling a penalty kick keeps his eye on the kicker, not the ball. That's because a ball kicked at close range often moves too fast for a human being to intercept it. The goalkeeper stands more of a chance of making a “save” if he can somehow anticipate your move and start jumping before the ball becomes a blur. As the kicker, your trick, then, is not to give away your intention. Your eyes and feet should be facing away from your target. You then graze the ball with the side of your boot (or whatever you have in the name of footwear) as you kick in the false direction. Kick hard. If your execution is true to plan, the ball goes off at a tangent and finds the corner of the goal opposite to the direction of your kick.

          So there we were. A hockey pitch doing duty for a soccer arena. Golden bars of sunlight falling from cloudy African sky. Everyone crowding around the goal area to witness the penalty shot. And me trying very hard not to let the goalkeeper see that I wanted to put the ball in the right-hand corner. I stepped back a couple of paces. I lurched forward in a curve. I made a connection.

          It was beautiful.

          I have never forgotten it and I'm going to make sure my grandchildren don't, either. The goalkeeper and the ball flew in opposite directions and my teammates went wild! It worked even better than I had anticipated. You should have seen the look on the disgraced goalkeeper's face as he sat in the wrong corner wondering how the ball could have ended up so far from him.

          I never made another crack penalty shot because soccer lost its fascination for me when I went to secondary school and life's larger issues - like careers and relationships - came to the fore. Indeed I cannot understand the current obsession with championship soccer. Sure, a good football match has way of holding your attention, but do you have to assault the opposing team's fans, the way soccer hooligans often do? Do you have to worship a player just because he put a couple of balls past the goalkeeper? Soccer stars are nowadays piped as “heroes”. Young boys in Japan may buy Beckham-approved sunglasses and youngsters in Africa shave their heads like Ronaldo but will that make them better players? I think not.

          If you look closely at the hype surrounding soccer and soccer greats, you will notice that the clubs that own the players and the organisations that control the tournaments are the cheerleaders in this mania. In other words, the game is being gobbled up by the monster that is commercialisation. “Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.” D.H.Lawrence said that (or maybe it was Mark Twain I'm not going to let inaccuracies get in the way of a good story) and even in Kenya, money-madness is largely responsible for our soccer woes.

          Maybe I am biased. Maybe footballers deserve more credit than I'm giving them. But it will take a lot to help my unbelief. When I was a kid, my favourite player was Diego Maradona (I was born as the end credits were rolling up on the 70s and therefore never got to see legends like Pele in action) but I can't for the life of me see him as my hero. A hero, in my definition, is someone who saves someone else from a calamity of some sort. What has Maradona ever done for me? Once, when I was younger and more careless, I took out a bank overdraft that I was later unable to repay. My mother came to my rescue by emptying her bank account so my life wouldn't be auctioned away. Now that's what I call a hero.   

© Alex N Nderitu

Straight Outta Africa (rap)

Title: Straight Outta Africa (or 'United States of Africa') (clean version)
Genre: Jazz/rap
Songwriter(s):  Alexander Nderitu

Before I leave the building like Elvis, I just want to say this:
A renaissance is coming to Africa, but make no mistake –
The renaissance will be no passing fad!

The Renaissance will not make your butt look better in jeans
 Or make your face look ten years younger.
The Renaissance will not be yet another Reality TV show;
It will not be interrupted by thirty-second commercials
Extolling the virtues of ‘lite’ beer
Or the latest herbal, breath-freshening, toothpaste.
The Renaissance will not be brought to you by a multinational.
The Renaissance will not be introduced by a pretty TV presenter.
The Renaissance will not be based on a New York Times bestseller
Or adapted for screen by this or that Hollywood scriptwriter.
The Renaissance will not be aiming for high ratings
Or be beamed to your living room via satellite technology.
You will not require a satellite dish or signals decoder.
The Renaissance will not help in the search for ‘The Apprentice’
Or be instrumental in the discovery of the next pop star.

The Renaissance will ignite fire in the hearts and minds of the people.
The Renaissance will star ordinary men and women.
The Renaissance will restore Africa’s lost glory.
The Renaissance will make this continent a better place
For you, your children and your children’s children.
Yes, The Renaissance has both purpose and meaning.

“When will the Great Renaissance come?” you ask.
But The Renaissance has already began, my friends.
Just as the beginnings of all rivers are trickles,
Just as the seeds of all great trees are barely visible,
Just as a seagull flapping its wings can alter weather patterns forever,
The stirrings of The African Renaissance are small but profound.
One day – one sweet day! –
We will have a United States of Africa!
One continent, one country, one people!
Viva the Renaissance!
Viva United States of Africa!

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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A Little Something-Something for Lovers (rap)

Lyrics by Alexander Nderitu.

Oh, man! I think I just found my "Miss Right"
She has the face, the body, height is just right
But too many men after you, could start a street fight
Most of these guys don’t know how to treat a girl right
Give them the goodies, they’ll disappear after one night
But not me, I wonna make you ma wife
Take you to my crib, smooth limousine ride
Get in, cool décor, candles burning in the dim light
Slip in a CD, Barry Can’t-Get-Enough White
These days, relationships are complex
Women want love, commitment, not just plain sex
But try me, baby, I’ll pass all of your tests

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Monkey See, Monkey Do (poem)

The other day, I decided to go to the zoo
Because I was bored and needed something to do.
The biggest visitor crowd was watching the monkeys
As they played around, running up and down the trees.
The zoo keeper informed us that the monkeys could imitate with ease
And he proved it by pretending to sneeze.
Immediately, one of the human-like primates also gave a sneeze
And cooed when the keeper made a coo;
Whatever, the keeper did, the monkey did, too.
The keeper said, ‘Monkeys have a knack for imitation.
We call this behaviour, “Monkey see, monkey do.” ‘

Coming back to the city, I met a friend named Sue
Who could have walked on a glass sheet without falling through.
She said, ‘These days, you have to be thin to be in.
I want to look like the girls in the fashion magazines,
That’s why I haven’t eaten a complete meal since I was a teen.’
And then there was this boy whose outfit beggared description.
He wore so much metallic jewellery that if lightning struck,
He would have been the first to get an electrocution.
He said, ‘Yo, straight up, this is the hottest fashion:
Chains are the thing to rock – it’s all about representation.’
I asked him whereabouts he got his fashion ideas from
And he said, ‘Them music videos – don’t you watch television?’
As I went home, I decided that the city was just like the zoo
Where the attitude was ‘Monkey see, monkey do.’

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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Red Giants & White Dwarfs: Our Lovely, Lovely Universe (poem)

Red giants and white dwarfs: Some of the most fascinating things in the known universe.
Stars shine by burning hydrogen in thermonuclear reactions
So a very strange thing happens when the core depletes its hydrogen ration.
It contracts, under gravity, drawing more fissionable material into the centre
And the new reactions push against the star’s shell, inflating it like a balloon.
But as grows, the star also gets cooler and cooler, eventually turning red.
Ergo, it becomes a ‘red giant’ glowing sinisterly in space, like the Devil’s own eye.
Now, if the star wasn’t very big to begin with, then once the nuclear fuel is gone
Then the writing’s on the wall – the poor star will collapse into a white ball.
Although not big, the ball will be super dense and will now be called a ‘white dwarf’.

Nova and Supernova explosions: The fireworks displays of the gods.
The life of the white dwarf, formerly known as a star, is not over yet.
The white dwarf can easily steal matter from a nearby planet
Since the dwarf was once the core of a star, its gotta be pretty hot!
So the new matter is ignited right on the sphere’s surface and ‘Kaboom!’
You have this huge, huge flash of light called a nova.
And if the amount of matter was big enough, you get a Supernova.
By the way, there’s this massive star called Eta Carinae
And in the near future, she’s going give us a spectacular supernova!

Asteroid Impact and Interacting Galaxies: The universe’s biggest traffic collisions.
You see, everything in space is moving and often very, very fast
And, believe it or not, there’s not enough space in space for everything
So every second of every day, something collides with something else.
Particles collide, planets collide and even entire galaxies collide!
(Hey, I wouldn’t make this up you know - I’m honest as Abe Lincoln).
We very much suspect that an asteroid collision wiped out the dinosaurs
And there are galaxies still dazed after accidentally bumping into each other;
They very shamefully stagger around like drunken sailors!

Chaos a.k.a Brownian Motion
There are no traffic rules in the visible universe
And if it’s true that our destinies are controlled by the stars
Then it’s little wonder that our lives are so chaotic!
I remember when I was about knee high to a grasshopper,
Mum would tell me to make my bed after my nap at lunch hour
And uncountable little motes would rise when I patted down the blanket.
They were most visible when they got caught in the sun’s diagonal bars
And if you observed closely, you’d see that they had no direction in particular.
At that time I didn’t know that the chaos was caused by atomic collisions
And just marveled at what I’d created – my own little universe!

Mars and Venus: Two of the planets in our solar system.
I can remember what the teacher was wearing in my first science lesson.
Okay, I tell a lie – I don’t remember what he wore for fashion
But I do remember what I learnt and it had to do with the solar system.
What we have are nine major planets, and lots of other stuff, orbiting a sun
That will one day grow into a red giant and probably collapse into a white dwarf.
On planet Earth, we find men and women – the same species but so different
That it’s as if one gender came from Venus and the other from Mars
And they met on Earth whereupon they have been TRYING to coexist ever since.

Albert Einstein & Isaac Newton: Two of our best-known scientists.
Einstein gave us the theories of relativity and let us know that E=MC2
Cambridge University’s Isaac Newton gave us the laws of motion.
He put the ‘acceleration due to gravity’ at ten metres per second
Which means that if, for example, you were to fall from a passenger plane
Then you would hit the ground at a speed of about…er…hold on,
this is Physics 101 – where’s that damn calculator! –
Calculators are like cops – where are they when you need one?
Anyway, the point about acceleration is: ‘Don’t fall off a building or a plane!’

Carbon and Hydrogen: Some of the chemicals of life.
And on the sixth day, God took some carbon and hydrogen,
Added a dash of oxygen, a pinch of phosphorus and a modicum of nitrogen,
And carefully mixed it all up before placing it in a pre-heated oven.
And when the first man finally emerged, naked and alone,
He looked up at the celestial beings in their dazzling white robes
And said: ‘All right, who’s the comedian who stole my clothes?’

Our Beautiful Spaceship Earth.
Three doors down from the Sun – actually, our nearest star –
Is our humble abode, Mother Earth. Among the planets, she’s not the biggest
But she is the fairest of them all! One thousand miles per hour is her rotational velocity
And as if that wasn’t enough, she still orbits the sun at 65 times that!
You can tell that the Earth is speeding because each month a different constellation floats by:
Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer…
Don’t look now, but I think the Earth is a giant spaceship!
We strive to reach the nearby moons and planets
While in actual fact, we go on a free ride around the sun each year!

The Universe and You.
The universe is really, really big – I’m taking phenomenal.
It’s so big that no matter what technology we use, we can only see a tiny fraction of it
And, more’s the pity, it contains some things that we can’t see at all.
There’s dark matter, anti-matter, sub-atomic particles, invisible light;
There are quarks, neutrinos, black holes, worm holes, space warps;
There might be parallel universes, shadow universes, etcetera.
And should our universe once collide with its anti-universe,
Then we will all disappear in the Mother of All Light Flashes.
In a universe so vast it seems that we hardly figure but we actually benefit
From the existence of some very distant objects.
The precise distance of the Earth from the Sun and planets is crucial
And giants like Jupiter can gravitationally disrupt the trajectories
Of speeding asteroids that might otherwise crash into us.
It is likely, very likely, that when you’re staring at the universe,
The universe is, at that precise moment, staring at you!

The End

(c) Alex N Nderitu

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'You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.'
- Max Ehrmann, Desiderata 

The Golden Man (poem)

'Problem with no man
Before Black, I'm first human'
- musician Wyclef Jean, 'How Many Mics'

I had a dream.
I was walking down a street in downtown Harlem,
The stirring strains of jazz in my ear,
When I bumped into Martin Luther King, Jr.
It was drizzling and darkness had fallen
And I said: ‘Perhaps you could help me, sir.
You see, I’m looking for the Golden Man.’
King said, ‘What do you want them Orientals for, brother?
Say it loud – I’m Black and proud!’
I explained that the Golden Man is without colour;
He knows that racism is ignorance and doesn’t bother
With petty prejudices, seeing humanity as one.

King said: ‘How long have you been searching, son?’
I said: ‘Quite some time now, more than a year.’
‘Have you ever heard about the “Conference of Birds”?’
‘Yes – some birds made an epic flight to see their God
But when they reached Heaven, a big mirror was all they got!’
‘Exactly,’ said the leader of the Million Man March in D.C.
‘Maybe if you looked in a mirror, you’d find the man you want to see.’
‘Me, the Renaissance Man? That’s a good one!
I’m just another face in the crowd – Nobody knows my name!’
King said: ‘The biggest living thing is the General Sherman tree
But, strangely enough, its SEED is the size of a flea!
Tell me, what does your name mean?’
‘Well, in Spanish, it means “defends mankind”.’
‘Now isn’t that strange! Don’t just talk about change –
BE the change that you want to see!’

James Baldwin appeared just as I was parting with Martin Luther.
He smiled broadly and placed a hand on my shoulder:
‘When I was starting out, nobody knew my name, either.
Later they labeled me “the greatest Negro writer.”
The dream becomes a goal when you start working
Towards it. Visualise your goal and start walking!’
I thanked him for his advice and entered a nearby bar.
It was warm, stuffy and as crowded as a slave ship.
In the corner, a small TV was showing the news.
Poet Gil Scott-Heron was nursing a beer when I joined him at the counter.
He turned and said, ‘You the boy from Africa?’
‘Guilty as charged,’ I said as I ordered a Budweiser,
‘I live right next door to the Maasai Mara.’
At that moment, a hush fell across the bar
As the TV showed two White cops flaying a Black youngster.

Gil Scott-Heron switched off the TV and started shouting:
‘Fear not for the revolution is coming, my brothers,
And the revolution will NOT be televised!
The revolutionaries will not talk to Larry King
Or crack jokes on Late Night with Jay Leno.
The revolution will not be available on cable,
The revolution will not be back after a toothpaste commercial,
The revolution will not be yet another Reality TV show,
The revolution will NOT be televised!’

After Gil Scott-Heron’s tirade, order returned to the house.
Billie Holiday took the stage amid a salvo of applause.
When everyone quietened down, the lady began to sing the blues.
‘The Very Thought of You’ was her first song.
Gil Scott-Heron looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong?’
I said that the song reminded me of my wife, Sue.
‘More than the love of my life, she’s the LIFE of my life:
The very thought of HER makes me smile.’
Gil patted my back, saying, ‘Black love is so beautiful!’
I said, ‘I didn’t know love had colours, my good man,
And, by the way, there’s no such thing as an “African American” -
All people com from Africa, or so the anthropologists say.’
The uproar that ensued drowned out Billie Holiday,
I had to escape before they lynched me.

Standing outside, still ruffled by the earlier hostility,
A young hooker in a micro mini and stilettos approached me.
‘Looking for some action? Anything goes,’ said she.
Barely had I finished saying, ‘No, my sister,’
Than she cocked her head and snapped her fingers.
She said, ‘Sister? You betta change your glasses, Mister!’
And with that, she spun round and sashayed away.

At that moment, Marvin Gaye materialized seemingly from ether.
He lamented: ‘It’s things like that that make me wonna holler!
Our sisters selling their bodies like re-usable drugs,
Our brothers turning into gangsters and fags.
Even in these United States, we are kept on the periphery.
I’m talking about the inner city blues. The powers that be
Have money for space shuttles and foreign wars
But they can’t shelter the homeless or feed the poor.
If this is the American Dream, I’d hate to see the Nightmare!
Taxation without representation. Yeah, makes me wonna holler!
Let’s raise our fists and shout, “Liberation!” ‘

Malcolm X was even more impassioned than Marvin Gaye:
‘You say nobody knows your name, brother?’ -
His glasses were reflecting the neon lights as he addressed me -
‘Forget the slave name and put an X after your real name.
And if you want to see any form of change – any –
Then you have to take the bull by the horns, as they say,
And impose your vision by any means necessary.
I understand that, like me, you’re a writer:
Remember that the pen is mightier than the sword.
You see that tall man standing in the corner?
That’s a G-man pretending to be an idler
And I’m sure that, somewhere, there’s a sniper
But I’m not afraid of becoming a casualty of war.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there is some corner of America that is forever Africa!’

As I left Malcom X, I pondered his last words
And, somewhere, soft as the hiss of distant sprinklers,
Was the sound of a search helicopter.
Could I, like Malcolm, use my pen to stab at social injustice?
They kill outspoken writers, don’t they?
Look at what happened to Stockley Carmichael, Ken Saro-Wiwa…
I had just started to run down the drizzled street when the helicopter
Leaped over a skyscraper and focused its blinding searchlight on me.
I stopped and stared blinkingly at the light, mumbling an urgent prayer.
The searchlight morphed into the sun and familiar sounds flooded my ears.
I looked around and realized that I had woken from my nightmare.
Grateful I was, but the memories of that weird dream would not let me go.
And I knew in the last that even in my waking life,
I would have to continue my search for the Golden Man.

The End.

More info about key characters:
At the age of 39, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room. Black Nationalist Malcolm X was shot and killed in Harlem by the Nation of Islam. James Baldwin co-wrote the screenplay of Malcolm X's biographical movie. The movie was directed by 'Spike' Lee and starred Denzel Washington as the controversial Black leader. Stockley Carmichael, who was once married to songbird Miriam Makeba, was shot dead by a sniper. Singer Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father during an argument. Billie Holiday died of a drug overdose at the height of her musical career. Gil Scott-Heron's grand revolution never came but attitudes did begin to change and Black people now have a chance to live the American Dream. But even though scientists have proved that a person's melanin count is not barometer for his worth, racism continues to be felt in may parts of the world. The search for the Golden Man continues...

The Nile (poem)


Osiris - (In Egyptain mythology) A major god who was killed by a kin but later resurrected. The Nile’s annual flooding provides much-needed silt that makes produce grow. The sprouting of the plants commemorates the rising of Osiris and marks the beginning of the Egyptian New Near.

Anubis - Jackal-headed ancient Egyptian god

Sobek - Crocodile-shaped ancient Egyptian god

From the womb of Lake Victoria, I burst forth,
Embarking on an epic journey towards the north
Where I will rendezvous with the Mediterranean.
Many are the obstacles and by the time I reach my destination,
I will be as crooked as a politician.

In some parts, I plunge hundreds of feet over cliff walls,
Sending off clouds of vapour as thick as tear gas.
In others, my brisk pace is reduced to leisurely stroll.
Enforced to tributaries, I soldier on to my distant goal,
Snaking through fantastic valleys and conquering scorching deserts.
‘Why doesn’t this river dry up?” mused the ancients.
“And where, oh where, is her secret source?”

For millennia, I held my secrets fast –
My age, my origin, my tributaries, my course –
Before I revealed all, men had to die as if cursed.
I am the Keeper of Genesis, Guardian of the Past.
I enabled great civilizations to spring from bare dust.
The pyramids, catacombs, historical cities like Alexandria,
The Pharaohs, their subjects and mighty dynasty,
All owe their existence to me.

Without me, Osiris would not resurrect,
Pudding-soft paddies would be as hard as tins,
Egyptians would go down like bowling pins,
Hippos, crocodiles, sacred ibis and fish of every description
Would lie lifeless, awaiting the Second Resurrection!
I am the real Goddess of Fertility – no river touches me.
The Mississippi falls short, the Thames only comes up to my knee.
I am Anubis among jackals, Sobek among crocodiles.
I am the Nile.

 (c) Alex Nderitu

The Gecko (poem)

Poised halfway up the wall, the gecko watches me.
He can hold a pose for hours but if I approach, he’ll flee.
He has a translucent skin and is as shy as a maiden,
With large black eyes like those of sci-fi alien.
Tiny hooks on his feet allow him to defy gravity
And the stunts he pulls would make Spider-man weep with envy:
I’ve seen him climb on glass and run upside down!
(Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the world’s climbing champion.)

As a nature lover, I only kill creatures that are edible (or deadly)
So the pale lizard has nothing to fear from me.
Unlike those noisy pets, he’s as silent as the Statue of Liberty
And while I scribble my poems in the dead of night he protects me
By preying on mosquitoes which I consider an enemy.
I’d like to say, ‘Thank you,’ but every time I reach out,
The clove-footed little reptile immediately takes flight!
I don’t know why I give him such a fright
But I can’t really say I blame him – if I were gecko
And a giant hand reached out for me,
I’d also scuttle up the walls for safety! 

(c) Alex Nderitu