Hanging out with my father, and my brother and sister


Prof. R. J. Olembo, UNEP


So I thought about my brother and sister a lot this weekend. It’s not like me at all. You don’t count on people just, sort of vanishing. I’ve been talking about death since I was born, so with my Dad it was kinda different. I knew he was dying.

It was strange. We both knew and we had to skirt around these two issues – I was gay and I was making films, not money.

You know, I’m Kenyan. We’re both African men. I’ll leave that there.

I remember telling him, immediately I found out, in some London pub. This gay thing had almost totally destroyed everything, and it’s not true that you know when you’re born.

I didn’t find out until year two, University.

The steak dinner was pushed around the plate. My Dad was frustrated at the UN – nobody was fighting for the animals, the earth, everyone just wanted the Red Passport and for him to run for Parliament.

I think he was frustrated at the glass ceiling – he was trying to learn French. Imagine. I found it funny. He couldn’t stand it. And spoke French like a Luhya. I laughed. In hindsight, I wish I had gone to classes with him – he never told anyone.

As you get older as an African man, you don’t tell anyone what you’re going through for your family. You don’t even tell your spouse.

Anyway. We called it a night. In the morning, at the airport (we were always meeting at airports) he looked at me and said – if you’re going to be a pioneer, it’s going to be very difficult, and I don’t think you’re strong enough. But I see God in you, so you must go on. Do me a favor though, don’t tell your Mum.

Of course I told my Mum as soon as I saw her. She threw the Bible at me and I threw the damn thing right back – I’d just finished reading it. The. Whole. Book.

This post isn’t about me, or my Dad or being gay. It’s a post about my sister and my brother.

Lumumba never judged me. And we fought only once, in all our lives, and that after some drunken evening.

Caroline didn’t care what I did, she loved me completely and thought Michael Jackson was lucky I was born Kenyan.

Without Caroline I would never have made it anywhere. Her self-esteem was impenetrable. She taught me that who I am, is enough; is still teaching me now, that who I am, is enough.

So when she lost her baby, we cried together. It was a bitter, bitter loss. All other women seemed to have choices. Caroline had one shot at it, and lost the girl at full time. Justine was her name.

My mum says we were talking when we were born.

I can tell you the moment I knew she was dying. It was the same moment as when we split to go for University. She told me she had cancer, and I told her that she can act on the other side – that it would be OK.

We never spoke about it again. It was like when she got married. I had to step aside. Still, we were always, kind of, one person.

Lumumba took me completely by surprise. He was my Dad’s best friend.

They both died on the same day, Coroline and Joe, and that was it. I went to India and found his University, and tracked down his hospital, and sat in his room.

For all three, I did not grieve, and for that I am thankful. Death does not frighten me, it never has, I know what lies on the other side – yet I live here on this side, and Caroline is not here, and neither is Joe.

Their phones don’t work.

I bought a very expensive Nokia to use in Kampala for my sister’s wedding. Uganda was ahead of Kenya for the briefest period back then. I buy expensive phones ever since…a little too expensive.

When I just want to take him out, I can’t find him.

So I thought about them alot this weekend. This big man, Dad – larger than life – his best friend Joe – man of the people – and my precious twin, Caro – my friend.

I thought about them, and I thought about migrants, and pictures of father’s crying, and Gaza, and Syria, and addiction, and Cancer and murder. I thought about the people gone, and those left behind, how it always, always changes everything…

I thought about these things and felt a smile.

You see: if you get it right this time, this one time, you’re going to die well, and be alright when you do.

If you can think – I am beautiful, I am free, I love you… If you can think – thank you, I did my best, I need no apologies… If you can think this way when you wake up, when you interact with the people you love, when you encounter those you don’t – you’ll be alright.

You’ll be OK.

♦pictures♦ Richard Cook at Stock Illustration  & Professor R.J. Olembo at UNEP

                                                   -words move-



Smogasbord, and so

A dashboard of delights.

Supine could be;
Relaxed on a hospital bed,

Goose down,
Luxurious but bad for your back,


Sometimes current but initially,

A sister healed,
A discussion beyond Mum,

Silver hair framing,
Ice-blue eyes,

Wrinkles round a mouth;

Ripe fruit is determined by smell, and
A mango,

Will flood a kitchen with colour.

Who are you now,
Riding on the upper deck to Luton with,

The Book in your lap and,
The Wind in your hair?

Why are you a mango,
Ripe to eat?

When love is alive, or

Aroma disperses into cupboards, is
Dispensed across sofas, and

Out walking I thought,
A million dollars can change everything.

– have your wings clipped but clip them yourself,
spoof your location, so health.

Angels are born everyday.

♦picture♦ – Eartha Kitt, Wikipedia

evocative short poetry – words move

Careful as you go


A time will come,
When you don’t even,
Own your own body,

On the side of the road,

A full breakdown not a common,

Leave your heart, it’s broken,
Total mechanical failure.

What will you do?

Trust what you have given?
Love, a blue opinion?

You have only what you spent.

You think you can ride your habits,
You should be fine,

It’s just, the vehicle is suddenly inoperable.

Your soul no longer requires a fading heart.

evocative short poetry

My name is Henry

short poetry, photography, new, fresh, ghost, gauze, faint, tenuous, dimension

The place I used to visit,
On bad days,
With yoghurt and spoon,
Is vacant.

The leaves are raked,
Into a neat pile,
By the bench,

And except for the newspaper,
Blowing about in the wind,
There is no-one here.

The river beyond,
Is a murky brown,
Same as it’s always been,


Over the concrete balustrade,
On the sandy bank on the other side,
Is a briefcase.

Is it yours?

My name is Henry,
And I’ve been disappearing for years.

I can’t seem to find my way home.


photo – webstockpro.com

-evocative short poetry



Careful now…


short poetry, Africa, hope, future, children, freedom, potential


And look!
There’s an African!


There’s another!

So fragile,
Precious stones off,
Every limb!

Careful now,
May come a time,

When evil cloaked in,
What is right!
Leads goodness into night!


words move, Africa, reconcilliation, ownership, economics, future, death

See – Exile
photos – Pierre Holtz & Paul Cadenhead for REUTERS at TotallyCoolPix.com

The courtyard 7E81341DFA8767C7355C7125D163E3EE

short poery, war, death, dog togs, young soldiers, experience

The courtyard is alive with the spit of angry bullets,
And baked hard by the scorching sun.

Clouds of smoke drift in,
In patches,

And are,
Collected by moans,

That become tiny whirlwinds,
That suck on the dog tags on dead men’s chests.

See – Why we fight, Soldier
photo – 67pics.com


evocative short poetry – words move