Mombasa

Poetry by Ted Boughter-Dornfeld Copyright © 2009

Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s Life.

As the clock strikes
midnight in a perfect world,
they only want to know one thing:

What does your soul look like?

In the beginning, three sat together
in darkness, sweating and chewing miraa,
talking of unlikely things and dreams
while sucking down Tusker.
It was refreshing to be nobody,
soft baiting the line
and wasting time
gambling shilingi.

The sun outside set sooner than expected,
dipping well below the low buildings,
so they ventured out into the cobalt
blue evening, not thinking too much
about who might be listening,
speaking bravely as their words
and jokes slowed down beside
shadows beyond the city lights.

Laughing more, the three hopped on
a matatu at Kimkambala, smelling
the final wisps of dinner in each
passing village, watching as a purse
got pulled just paces from the road,
until they got off by Fort Jesus.

Further and further, they treaded home,
walking alongside the Indian Ocean –
Through the thick, green night, almost
fog-like, tip-toeing by an old man and
his flashlight; he slept soundly on
the steps of that corner storefront.

The three whispered their goodbyes,
and headed separate ways.

The youngest of them slid easily between the
narrow alleyways, and finally through braided
black bars. With the turn of a treasure-chest key,
he was back in the courtyard, walking past the
stripped bones of yesterday’s catch, where he
decided to make his permanent address, today.

He had dwelled where dreams are born,
but only for a day, and searched to find
sunset in the tip of a cup – when the
sunset was enough. He knew
that it was too much as he asked
a stranger to fill him up to the brim,
and told him not to worry, he would
say “when.” He had worked hard to
lay down his guilt on the altar, and not
return to gin, making this decision:

He decided that being
born to homeless winds
doesn’t mean that you
have to be homeless, and
as he climbed the broom-swept
maroon steps, up to the roof, he
breathed deeply. How pleasant
it was to look out onto the sea,
reflecting the pearly moon,
so beautifully.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Barry Dornfeld
    Aug 18, 2009 @ 13:02:22

    Ted,

    I like this piece a lot. The sense of place and movement. Interesting to see you writing about Kenya!

    Dad

    Reply

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