Richard Oduor Oduku


I live in a city of water – on shipping containers
where men sit on duka-fronts sipping ganja tea
& amphibious trucks sail downstream
tailgates streaking black paint on undulating ripples
& stoic farmers tail them, in papyrus rafts and hyacinth baskets
hawking coconut oil, dried fish, and spices along the khlong

on the quayside are bubble floats, bobbling
equidistant yellow threads – like Barnett Newman’s Onement, I
we paddle our dugout canoes to the embankments
& pay wharfage fees to the lady in a blue coat

on street corners artists sketch on shackled thieves
mixing paint on cremation urns
and install 3D street graffiti art floating in mid-air
to geoengineer public perception

at night, the city is a Kandinsky’s watercolour: Composition VII
neon light on oil-slicked waterways
duka-fronts fill with hedonists from port houses for free sex
& preachers resurrecting Jesus in the hearts of the literati

there’s only one theatre in the city –
abandoned, and in disuse. A man stands at the door
selling tickets to ghosts of theatregoers whose skeletons cuddle in damp lounges half-submerged in the water, waiting to be swept away by high tides when the season changes

to live here is to perfect the flexibility of a tadpole, to master old arts: witchcraft and night running, to teleport into transparence. We drift into the city’s boroughs, constantly bumping into ourselves, crouching under tiny little dank places to puff slim joints

at dawn, Stimela runs across the city, on elevated rails –
a reluctant sojourner, as Hugh Masekela screeches in falsetto
but there is nothing left on the bodies sprawled in port houses:
miners of flesh no longer alight there
they walk the streets, mindbended, talking about Salvador Dali

at the Clones Supermarket, the refrain is:
How many do you want! How many do you want!
A copy of yourself is affordable
How many copies of yourself do you want, Sir?

Richard Oduor Oduku

is a

Senior Editor for Panorama.