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Dagoretti Corner, One Throne Magazine

"Woman of Color" by Rosalie Krenger.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.

by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo
Dagoretti Corner
(For Mama Oliech)


Sitting inside Art-Caffe’s high
faux Italian cream and mahogany contrasts,

at that mall on The Great Corner – Dagoretti –
of Mama Oliech’s banda, her frying tilapia –


rush of salt skin, white flakes, morsels
lips and tongue find behind opercula,
round radial cartilage – scales gaining ground,


I am always
on the edge of things.


Straightening my spine when Ama arrives,
I conjure a First World timbre
to order hummus, a smoothie,


as though our waiter, James, respects this posturing,

will refuse to lay mushed peas on blue
hand-blown glass otherwise; as if he could

neglect to include a mound of mushroom,
a sprinkle of paprika, the gleam of clean cutlery.

Having given over a small fortune
so Ama and I can laugh
in public together,

I cross over to Mama Oliech’s,
summon a wretched frown and ‘hood stance
to haggle for a week’s supply of fish.

I hope she won’t catch me salivating.



Anchor 2
Easter, One Throne Magazine

"Empty Chairs" by Stock Project and Lindsey Tyne.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.



142 students at a Kenyan university are shot
while I sleep. In the morning the news seeps in
while I prepare an assignment for The University
of British Columbia; sunshine, iris and rhododendrons
outside. Maundy Thursday is a distraction I block out.


Good Friday in my body, a curtain breaks
and I bleed at last. It hurts more than I expect.
Alone in my room, I attend to the pain
in my belly, turn it round and round.
The news of the dead listens to itself.


An American professor of medicine tells a room full
of Canadians about her research: providing
free healthcare education to all that want it. The needy
are always in Africa: she is saving the Sudanese first.


That Tuesday after Easter she tells us how Kenya
has four psychiatrists for its 44 million,
how patients in its Mathare Hospital sleep, medicated
in a field, monkeys goading them from the trees. It’s a zoo,
she says. Disgusting, she says.


Darkness, Thursday after Easter.
I have insulted the kidnappers driving past.
They want the baby in my arms,
send a woman to teach me. I run
through the suburban neighborhood, soles
slapping against concrete. Finding a back alley shed,
I push the flimsy door shut, try to breathe quietly, my baby
sucking his pacifier. But the murderess finds us easily,
pushes the door in, grabs me by the neck, squeezes.
My arms weaken.



Ngwatilo Mawiyoo is a Kenyan poet currently living in Vancouver, Canada, where she is completing her MFA at the University of British Columbia. A Callaloo fellow, she was recently shortlisted for the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Kwani? and World Literature Today. Her chapbook Dagoretti Corner is forthcoming from the New Generation African Poets chapbook series.




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