Born a Crime?

I don’t have the words to weigh in,

to condemn or to cry out in pain

at all the unnecessary deaths,

the targeting of people who look

just like their attackers.

Their only crime is to be born

in a different country.

My words fail me.


The rain began to fall down softly, drops tapping gently against the earth. I never felt the urge to run or dash beneath an eave or leafy tree, like everyone else on the street. Instead, my pace slowed and I looked down, forcing my curls to fall in front of my face, to fight the slight breeze that lifted the crochet curls, exposing my cornrows underneath in the pockets by my temple where I had not finished inserting the curls. Strangers were suddenly increasing their pace. I could hear the pitter patter of feet headed towards home at the end of a long hump day at the office. It was 5:30 in the afternoon and the warm Kampala skies had waited as long as possible, grey clouds spewing and brewing as the day progressed until, finally, they could no longer contain the rain their clouds held.

I was aiming to walk to the closest mall, to purchase my contact lens solution. When the rain began to fall, I decided to simply pop into a hotel that suddenly loomed up to the right. I walked up to the guards and, with my American accent, I was ushered in with a smile and softly whispered Welcome. My intention was to find a source of Wi-Fi and to find a socket. A jack. My phone was dying. I needed it alive so I could order a SafeBoda to ferry me home, since I had no actual cash on my person.

The restaurant was blue. An electric blue that was at once soft but also piercing. It was empty, save for a couple who occupied a low table and a mzungu and his African colleague chatting in soft tones at one of the hightop tables. I quickly settled into the corner, immediately noticing that Michael Bolton was gently serenading someone over the restaurant speakers. I also immediately noticed that they had no Hendrick’s on their bar shelves. My disappointment rose so swiftly, it almost choked me.

The couple at the table next to me drew my attention. They sat in silence, slouched into their individual settee chairs, each glued to their mobile phone screens. His Guinness beer sat in front of him and she held a glass with some clear liquid and lemon slices in her right hand. It could have been water. It could have been gin. One thing was clear is that they were together but not really together.

I ordered some red wine. Merlot. Dry. I hoped it was good. It was mediocre.

Then they played Boyz II Men.

A big group had come in and settled in at the corner furthest from mine. Their voices carried easily across the room and I could hear their British accents wafting sharply as they discussed some presentation to the Ministry of Finance…but they also mentioned Cricket and Rugby.

As Wanya hit his crescendo notes, I was the only one bobbing my head to the music. At one point, I started to sing. Looking up self-consciously to see if anyone had noticed my off-key singing, I noticed two large men who had walked in and settled at the bar. One was on the phone, talking in loud whispers in a language I failed to recognize. After a few minutes, he hung up the phone and turned to his friend.

They began to speak in Swahili.

I smiled.

Then I heard one say to the other some words that, when put together, my brain refused to comprehend, but my heart froze in fear. As Wanye petered out and a high-pitched Michael Jackson song floated into the room, I realized what they were talking about and I calculated how quickly they would notice the beaded Kenyan Flag bracelet that I had around my left wrist. And what that would mean for me. And my life.




You used to call me mammi.

I came across an old email from you, and it still warmed me to see your opening line…’hey mammi…’

It’s been 9 years almost since you were laid to rest, since I said my silent goodbye to you.

But today, memories roared up suddenly and quickly, pushing me to recall how we met and how you left.

Grief, someone said, has no expiration date.

You used to call me mammi.

And you used to make me feel some type of way.

But grief still haunts my heart when it comes to you and how you left us.

I miss you.


I want to remember who I was.

Before fragility invaded my insides,

tossing about and razoring my core,

leaving behind scabs on scabs that

my core gingerly balanced on,

holding itself up pretending all

was right when a puff of breath

could bring it all down,

scabs cracking as the core crumbles

and it all comes into the light.


Doesn’t feel like you thought it would.

Instead, it feels like nothing you’ve

felt, touched or tasted before.

The fire with which it hits you can

and will burn you…

Just depends on the intensity & depth

that you, that I, shall allow it.

I want to remember who I was.

But the fire swept through, burned.

All of that me is gone, ashed out.

Never got to say farewell.


I hesitated, not wishing to call it out.

My cards splayed out on the table,

the dealer looking at me expectantly

…and you?

Your cards are held close to your chest

and I cannot tell what floats in your eyes,

and the dealer perhaps knows,

but His face remains neutral.

You steal glances at me,

perhaps looking to see what cards I hold,

and I gather myself over them, Continue reading


A thin thread of something unnamed

hangs tautly between us,

spooled and fueled,

growing in intensity,

but also requiring

strong consideration

for interspace

and pragmatism.

But this thread that spools

so deliciously, calling

and pulling on invisible threads,

is of the sweet, unexpected kind.

The most dangerous thread

of all.