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. Then Gone 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
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.
But he didn't seem excited, so much as
What did I care? Maumau was long over,
and was probably mostly a myth.
Ms Nalletamby storms in, shouting
What do you have? Give it to me! What is it?
A letter from home.
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,
The roar becomes a scream,
gravel machine-guns against the surrounding cars,
heavy lumps of clay thud
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.
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
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