POSTCARDS FROM NAIROBI / KYLE HEMMINGS

 

1. By the time this postcard reaches you, I imagine you’ll be waiting at a train depot for a man to bring you a fake passport & the latest rumors about how your mother is doing back in a country of slow pain. Darkness can disguise a cathedral of faith, he says. You want to believe that his words are bamboo rugs. You want to believe that all tarred roads are flanked by children offering cool water. On this train, they do not allow bare feet.

2. By the time this postcard reaches you, I imagine you conversing with the stranger next to you. He has thinning hair & you suspect that some part of him is jaundiced. He tells you how he misses tofu and shitake mushrooms, siu mai dumplings & lotus leaves wrapped around sticky rice squares. The train bullets under a tunnel. He asks if you’re visiting Nairobi for business or pleasure. You shrug & smile, then realize that he cannot see you. Both is what you say. After the train exits the tunnel, you are the only one in this car.

3. By the time this postcard reaches you, I imagine you with eyes closed, shaking your head to an i-tune by Ja Rule or Cabo Snoop. You’re sitting in an unfurnished room somewhere in Pumwani. You’re afraid to leave the hotel because of your preconceived notions of children begging you for money, or strangers kidnapping you, leaving you blindfolded for days. Instead, you stand at the window & wave to a man you think is me. That trademark wide floppy straw hat. Father, you yell out. But I’ve already disowned you back in Kibera.

4. By the time this postcard reaches you, I’ll be on a matatu going 80 kilometers per hour with bags of sisal rugs & herbal teas. There’s a postcard of us waving from a smart bus, as if we had not a care. I’m going to start a new life in another town. I’m going to forget about skyscrapers, Reuters, and Deutshe Welle. But you’ll track me down. Convince me to come home. You’ll lift a lifetime of contraband from your shoulders. Even though your mother has died from too much morphine, from too much travel and too many collapsed railway stations–you won’t hold it against me. You’ll hand me back all the postcards I’ve ever sent you. As if I were the child wanting to be found & punished.

 

 

 

Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. He blogs at Up At Berg Gasse 19

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