Three Poems | Robin S Ngangom

Street Life

I’ve had decadence forced on me.
I let the rain waste my day, and arriving
at streets that do not even know my name
I take off just like that, waving to silhouettes,
buying drinks for anyone, even primates
for whom I have no great regard, hating the houses
which warn of dogs instead of welcoming me.

I allow the rain to flay desire’s skin
after falling in lust with an assortment of women,
pursued by an obstinate heat, and an old nose for adultery.
I covet the well-groomed bodies of vehicles
which thread through the eyes of the street,
before darting in and out of shops interspersed like snares,
choosing clothes and shoes which the manly discarded, and
even perfumes to throw off my real self.
Reaching barbers’s hideouts
I spend hours there in a trade union
with men who deal in a hairy business,
watching fingers that pick noses and
teeth in disgusting turn.
I let them fondle my head for a long time.

Until I reached the blind alley of night, and
I slowly uncovered myself
observing shops murdered before they were born,

listening to the dead orchestra of the street.

Genesis’s End

Khyrim woman, by the presage of this dark wind
wracking the breast of the hill,
the leaves kindling, it is autumn again and
the passes of summer
no longer carry our missives.

Your dying laughter withers the rock’s lip,
pines possessed by your eyes,
after you changed into an unearthly desire,
and the moons inhabit only the observatory of stone
though I plaited dreams in your once-woman hair.
Wedged between the stones of origin
your mute cry wanders the slopes
while we search for days on end,
in rains of memory, holding a solitary flower,
scanning monoliths standing in the mist.

Moons ago, lured from your cautious cave
you permitted the sun and rain
to undo your blind coiffure,
and allowed your opaline heart
to be doused by waters of home and hearth.
You also hummed ballads of freedom
and wrote on suntanned granite
the genealogy of your people
and your man-wounded heart.

Stone you were
stone you were sung to be and
I kissed you to begin my dying.



Before they used terror when things were beginning
to go out of control and people showed aberrant
behaviour, revolutionaries had asked poets in their
lower ranks to compose patriotic songs for a country
which cannot be found on any map. They would coerce
nocturnal drivers of interstate buses to play tapes of
one-act plays which are designed to make unsuspecting
passengers weep with patriotic shame. I know this for
real, I grew up with revolutionaries. They had even
asked me to translate a press release over the phone.

Before he became the sharpshooter of a revolutionary
band my childhood friend smelled of straw and cattle,
and then one day he bridled a horse and rode it hard
through a busy marketplace scattering customers and
traders alike like straw in a gale. I was told that he
buried a pistol at my cousin’s backyard just before he
went under the ground. Only after he came over ground
with the venerable title ‘teacher’, because Chinese
masters trained him, did I meet him on the street and
he smelled of designer clothes. He now keeps himself
occupied with work contracted out by the public works
department and once asked me if I were married. He
has two wives, one of them an actor.

Before the crackling fire of revolution which warms the
hearts of boys we sat in a circle and talked endlessly about
oppressors and life in the jungle. Friends brought stories
of the ordained, who survived on roots and eggshells. We
looked at Che’s hammock with longing and even mixed
his cocktail but had no idea of when to dig a tank pit.
When little books with a star and red skins appeared it
was too late for me. I had fallen in love, and although it
broke my heart, my father sent me to another land with
gentle hills, so that I can read other books which will
make me stand on my bourgeois feet.


When they are not around they become butts of fun.
The roving story then was of a wastrel who went home
after midnight because he had wasted all his time with
his layabout friends around a fire one winter night. He
had to cross a walled house guarded by fierce dogs to
reach his home. When the owner of the house who was
woken up by the dogs asked ‘Who goes there?’ the
wastrel found his wits and replied, ‘In the service of the
motherland’ in a solemn voice as one would expect a
revolutionary to reply.

When they became arbiters when someone’s duck was
stolen or two women were fighting over one man I
stopped being furious with them.

You should write when you can still laugh at yourself
and the world, before you give yourself up to
revolution’s despair.

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