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1978-1982 - Poems by Richard Bowen

Four poems have been selected from a book written by Richard...

which have particular association with Turi;

If you are interested in further work please visit http://Lulu.com/rbowen2000.


Track II: Turi, 1980

My ear on the rail,
something I'd read in a book,
I proclaimed sagely that
something was coming.
The thrum in the rail
a cicada buzz
heralding the approaching storm,
a minor earthquake
making the pebbles dance
a jitterbug with the distant diesel.

Or not so distant.

My companions scattered
leaving me lying on the ground,
my face on the fiery steel.
Around the bend
not twenty paces away
bigger than a house
it bears down on me
whistle screaming like a tortured soul.

Leaping for the side of the cutting
gaining the edge
just as the behemoth
roared past,
an angry beast
dragging vacuum in its wake.

Heart a running rabbit
trying to break through my ribs,
forty eight cars, pounding past,
each one no farther away
than the reach of my fingers,
feet scrabbling at the
crumbling red clay.

Ten, twenty, a thousand years
as the KR express
bellowed past, shaking the whole world,
inches from my slipping Batas.



around the next bend
and gone.

Fly and Douglas
on top of the cutting
laughing uncontrollably at my
weak kneed terror,
the scream I didn't even know
poured from my lips.

Then I, too, was laughing,
crying, laughing,
relief, terror, and
joy to be alive,
to be so very alive


'Bedtime Stories'

Late at night,

flashlight under the covers,

Ms. Nalletamby pacing the corridor.

Lights out, boys! Don't make me get the tackie!


Giggles, and stories.

Dreadful stories of the terrs,

coming in the night, burning the farms,

for what? We didn't know.


Of course nobody believed them,

but they were good stories.

Lots of blood and fire, and breaking windows.

So exciting.

But he didn't seem excited, so much as






What did I care? Maumau was long over,

and was probably mostly a myth.


Just stories.


Ms Nalletamby storms in, shouting

What do you have? Give it to me! What is it?


A letter from home.


'Safari Rally'

Thundering across the vast empty space,

the roar of the muffler-less engine

announces the arrival of

Charles Mukundi's Peugeot.

No sooner heard than it screams

to a juddering halt in front of us,

the pungent stench of burning oil,

melting tires, and the always-present

warm green smell of Africa. Red dust

sifts down through my hair,

fills my nostrils with the reminder

that Charles and I are children

of the same land.


The bellow of the engine barely dulls,

and the pit crew yell "Haraka! Haraka!"

The building shouts of the wanainchi,

recognizing the hometown hero returned, briefly,

emerging from the clanking wreck

to receive their adulation.


Sure, Shekhar Mehta is long gone,

Drew passed hours ago,

but this is Charles Mukundi!

I used to go to school with him!

We used to share spicy chevda at tuck time,

and steaming ugali at chai

time, under the cool shade of the baobab,

while the starlings shout "Too late! Too late!"

The ibis trumpets back,

"No! Still too soon! Still too soon!"


Pneumatic drills shriek at each other

to wrench the protesting bolts from the wheels,

thick with Mara mud

still warm and sticky

from the fires of noon.


One tire, overinflated, pops like a party balloon.

The laughter of the celebrating crowd

is sudden, scintillating, contagious.

Charles' angry glare transforms

in an instant to a pearly grin.


The pit boss screams, "Haraka!"

one more time, and then,

"Hiya! Fire!"


The roar becomes a scream,

gravel machine-guns against the surrounding cars,

heavy lumps of clay thud

against everything,

and we are all blessedly cooled

by a sudden mud shower

as the 504's howl dies reluctantly

into the distance.

We all let out a breath

we didn't know we were holding.



Remember ...


A sea of eucalyptus

lapping at the lower edge

of Bottom Field,

stretching back to the reservoir,

a sea-spray of aroma

hanging over it.

Walking down the valley

like Moses through the Red Sea,

the waves towering on each side,

ready to crash in on us

as we walk through

on dry land,

but with the mist drenching

us with this scent.


Each desiccated leave

brings it back, every time --

brings me to the edge

of the waves


I wish to dash into the foam,

feel the stinging nettles

on my bare feet,

taste the dampers,

bathe in the smell of the trees,

the pungent tang of Shally's horses,

feel the leaves crunch,

each step releasing a new bouquet.


Will you go with me, Beloved?

Dip your toes in the surf,

then run into the waves,

and ever after have a leaf of eucalyptus

bring tears to your newly African eyes.

Submitted by: Richard Bowen

If you want to make any additions to this text please email association@turimail.co.ke association@turimail.co.ke.