Call for Submissions

Theme : ANCESTORS

Deadline : 28th May 2021.

Send in poems, short stories, articles, art and other forms of writing exploring the theme of ancestry, especially African ancestry. Any length is welcome.

#culture #History #AfricanHistory

#African Heritage

#family lineage

#rich African ancestry

#African spirituality

#Witchcraft and the dead

#African medicine

#African kingdoms

#African beliefs

#Lineage practices

#African naming

#Ancestry and nature

#the God /gods of our ancestors

Delve in, explore, write and send to nalubaalereview@gmail.com

New deadline: 28th May 2021.

This too Shall Ebb.

By Kimutai Allan.


Fear abounds,
In crowded cities,
And in the little hamlets,
The world, is scared stiff,
Hopelessness is all we feel.
It’s here,
A rogue affliction,
Ravaging us like a fire.
We want to escape,
But, whereto?
It’s all upon the world,
Can we win against it?
Well, it might serve us,
To relook at our past.
We,
The intelligent human species,
Have been bedeviled before,
By disasters so detrimental,
But haven’t we risen up?
And lived better than before?
Take heart,
Be of good cheer,
This insidious tide too will ebb.
Keep on acting,
Upon all that our medics tell,
For a day is coming,
When normalcy will again grace,
These our beautiful shores!

Poet Bio:

Kimutai Allan is a Kenyan writer whose works have been published in numerous publications like the Kalahari review and others.

Covidéjà vu.

By Jean Pierre Nikuze.

Unhand that twig
& recede
into your tenebrous tub!

Backtrack, creep
in reverse. Sibilate!

Like a funambulist
hinged,
the gasping close by
notwithstanding,
backpedaling

on a duly oiled
unicycle, silently
as time en route
even
as time unlapsed,

career backwards
& grow into your death
as the rouged user
of a concave mirror
colors her vim.

Tumble back first
heel into curb,

miss the ground’s receipt
of your inion, only
a figure of speech
you levelled bastard,

you bleeding out beast,
cursed owner
of a
staunchless wound,

the compound
good-as-dead;
in three syllables: carrion.

Glide, wriggle, convulse,
rousted by the tail

as in an ill-matched
tug of war,

for though
the wild goats are as

close as Wales,
all who’d been to Eden
died off
with the memory
of whereabouts.

Poet Bio:

Jean Pierre Nikuze is a Rwandan writer and poet.

Windows.

By Jean Pierre Nikuze.

Bumbling behind masks,
the world’s on the wrong side
of a beekeeper’s suit.

Provisional signatures of eyes
for God knows how long.
Each blink a flag
by which we hail & respond.
Call it a promotion.

For lack of competition
from the facial household,
they’ve become that
we always ascribed to them.
Also, chimneys, doors, balconies…

Poet Bio:

Jean Pierre Nikuze is a Rwandan writer and poet.

Listening to Frank at Work during the Corona Virus Lockdown.

By Jack Bowman.

The trumpet flares out, steamy notes, well felt ones,

Frank sits at his desk during a break,

glasses lost, he does his best to shuffle through.

Outside, the world is filled with viruses

and billions are confined to their homes.

Bands of morons,

defy this and will surely cause another wave

of the pandemic to spread.

So Frank writes, does his best to focus and balance

let’s the jazz in

it calms him –

reduces his typos

and reminds him about ‘the moment’

how it feels to be ‘moved’ about all you do

then does it.

Poet Bio:

Jack Bowman is the author of over ten books including poetry collections and novels.

We Live by the Hands of Others.

By David Mellor.

We live by  the hands of others

Not seen by you or me

They pass the parcel

Stand at the till

Nurse the wounded

Or keep order

We live  by  the hands of others

Not seen by you or me

Our hands scrubbed clean and safe

But…

We  live by others. We are grateful to them,

Who have to live with that fear, day by day.

So that a whole humanity can be preserved.

Poet Bio:

David R Mellor is from Liverpool, England. He is a writer and performer.

GRAVITY UNGRATEFUL

By Mark Blickley.

 

Yes, I am dressed in mourning

Dark clothes for a dark time

Yet I yearn to escape

Pandemic imprisonment

With the germ of an idea

That will allow me to soar

Above my confinement

In an airborne threat

Against complacency and boredom

As I reach up to a blue heaven

That promises social distancing

On a cosmic scale,

But that old bitch gravity

Bears down on me,

Slapping me down

Like a petulant child

Crying out

For what she cannot have,

Slammed back

To a blanketed earth

Of red white and blue.

 

Poet Bio:

Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is “Dream Streams”, is a text-based art collaboration with Amy Bassin.

Rain Falls without Mercy.

By Notty Bumbo.

I vacillate of late between rage and amusement. They drag me to and from a this ironic life.  And John Prine is dying, and our leaders are in the crapper stealing our lunch, and I don’t know anymore about star-ships and the World of Tomorrow. I haven’t a clue about our continuance, even the slightest evolution that might finally stop the bombs from falling would be a welcome sight!

I love someone. I love so many. I want to see them all celebrate 100 birthdays and leave a lasting smile behind.  I want the birds to return, I am bereft because John Prine is dying. Poets always matter, songs are the first medicine for despair. I sing with the warblers at midday and with the ravens at dusk. I cannot understand our fascination with fear. The world is too small now.

When will the Summer return? There are hyacinths just opening their leaves, tomato plants finally sprouting. I hear a dog bark somewhere to the West, demanding answers, desiring solace, I wonder how the bears will fair this summer. I hold a touch of hope that one day, there will be justice, when we learn how to be surprised again. Because John Prine has died and I cannot feel the rain.

 

 

Author Bio:

Notty Bumbo is a writer, artist, and poet living in Fort Bragg, California. He’s been published in over ten writing platforms including journals, magazines and anthologies. He recently got published in in Extreme: An Anthology by Vagabond Press. He has also written and published a novella titled, “Tyrian Dreams” which can be read on Kindle via Amazon Publishing.

3, 2, 1… PANDEMIC!

By Sara Collie

It was the lilacs that undid me. I could smell them long before I saw them, the air was suddenly thick with their distinct aroma. In a flash I was transported elsewhere: France, in my early twenties, in the back seat of my roommate’s car. I was tired and homesick when I piled myself in amongst my bags and books. Not just for our apartment in the city where we were returning after a weekend at her parents’ house in the middle of nowhere, but for something or somewhere else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. At the last minute her mother chopped a small branch of lilacs off the bush in the front garden and handed them to me and I cradled them all the way home, keeping them safe as we bumped and rattled down the country lanes in the late afternoon sun. I was touched by her thoughtful gesture and comforted by the delicate scent which sent me spinning further back in time. To my grandmother’s garden, years and years before, back when I used to put on ballet recitals for my bemused family on Sunday afternoons, twirling in a black leotard and pale pink tights on the old path. There was a big lilac bush there too: it towered over me then in those days. Sometimes I was allowed to pick a posy from the garden with my grandmother and, when that bush was in bloom, I always headed straight to it. The sweet perfume of its puffy cones of pale little flowers was so intense, though it never lasted long in a jar. I would bury my face in the bush for what felt like hours, then. Even now, mid-run I’ve been stood with my nose pushed into the branches that are hanging over a garden fence for a full minute, crying as I inhale the fragrance, remembering what it like to feel comforted by lilacs, recalling how small and safe I once was.

 

Back in the present day, but before the lilacs reached me, another unmistakable scent had hung heavy in the evening air: petrichor, rising from the wet grass and warm, damp tarmac. All week the temperature had been rising at a rate unsuited to the gentle early days of April until it broke suddenly with a rumble of thunder that signaled the start of an intense and unexpected storm. After the rain cleared the air I felt a need to do the same thing with my own head. There is a lot going on these days, mid-pandemic, and the old familiar weight of anxiety has been growing heavier in the middle of my chest. I know from experience that the only thing I can do to diffuse it is move, and so, having persuaded the laces on my old trainers into a bow and cloaked myself in lycra, I set off into the early evening.

 

There’s always a point when I run when my thoughts dissolve and I find myself moving on autopilot. No matter what music I have playing in my headphones, it is a quiet place, characterized by calm. I follow my feet until I’m miles away from anywhere with a headful of nothing but the sound of my own lungs. This trance-like state is a kind of disassociation: a disconnect between body and mind which allows me to process things differently. I seek it out as a way of escaping my tendency to over-think things. Normally when I come round, back into my body, I feel refreshed, soothed and re-energised.

 

But this time, when I come back into the present moment, it is with a huge jolt. Suddenly, coming straight towards me is a person in a mask. Everything seems to slip sideways as I try to make sense of what is going on – not just on the street, but in a wider sense. Somehow, as I was running along, my brain managed to completely forget about the pandemic: the thousands of people dying every day; the awful conditions that doctors and nurses are working in; the pain and suffering; the fear that has crept into the edges of all our lives; the lockdown; the loss of work; the stockpiling, everything. It is as though time briefly stopped without me noticing and is now exploding back into motion, as the last six weeks hit me all at once.

 

It’s funny how quickly we adapt, how swiftly the strangest of gestures becomes ordinary. Before I have quite understood what is happening I am checking the road behind me and, noticing it is clear (because it’s still possible to die in all of the old, ordinary ways), I am veering out beyond the cycle lane, right into the middle of the road, giving the person a berth much wider than the suggested 2 metres. My heart is pounding with the shock of remembering; with the shock that I managed to forget it all, for even a moment. I can’t quite believe I was running along oblivious for however many minutes it lasted.

 

As if to compound the shock, an ambulance suddenly veers around the corner, siren screaming, lights ablaze. I glimpse the face of the paramedic in the passenger seat as he passes me. His jaw is set firm, his mouth a grim line. I realize that I need to catch my breath and absorb all the information that is reentering my consciousness so I stop running and pull my headphones out of my ears. I am greeted with absolute silence. Aside from the now distant ambulance, not a car is to be seen on the usually busy road which leads down to the hospital. I realize that the masked person is the first person I have encountered in the whole time I have been out. It is not surprising that it feels strange: such emptiness on a busy road like this would be unthinkable, ordinarily. I start running again, my body instinctively seeking movement, my eyes roaming the street for the next distraction.

 

There is a method for combatting anxiety called the 5,4,3,2,1 technique which involves identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Focusing on the list causes negative thinking spirals to get interrupted and paying attention to your senses grounds you in your body in the present moment, which helps to alleviate panic. I start to do it as I run. I can see cherry blossom, bluebells popping up in nearby gardens, potholes, the sky glowing orange, cars lined up on driveways. It doesn’t feel like enough to just glimpse things, so I slow down and pull my phone out of my pocket to start cataloguing the flowers, the light, the signs of life and nature that are lining my route. I tell myself it is so I can look through them later when I lie in bed awake, an alternative to doom-scrolling the headlines but it is a habit I often indulge in, even in ordinary times. A deep-seated need to try to preserve fleeting, beautiful things in nature. I notice, as I do every year, how quickly the blossom has already become confetti in the pavement cracks. I am always melancholy at the thought of how brief blossom is, but this year my feelings have been dialed up to a deeper kind of despair that is not just about the ordinary passing of time which rolls round every year to punch me in the gut. This year, death is so much more present in everyday life: a real threat that we are all living with and trying to avoid. For some people it is has come already, so much sooner than they or anybody expected. What to do with that thought?

 

I keep counting, only I can’t do four things I can touch because it isn’t safe to touch anything anymore, so I skip to three things I can hear: more sirens, wailing faintly a few roads away, my breath, fast and gulping. I cannot identify a third sound – this isn’t working as well as it usually does. What to do when the things that normally comfort me get over-ridden by the darkness of the world? Where do I turn then? Quick, what are two things I can smell? There’s the after-rain scent of petrichor, still heavy in the air, and then that’s when the lilacs get me and everything I was trying to hold together inside me comes pouring out in hot, insistent tears. I cross the street to the branches of just-opened purple blooms and sink my face into them. I am grounded in the now-ness of these little flowers and simultaneously transported to the layers of safer, more comforting memories in the past.

 

I tell myself it’s just a brief escape from the world as it is now, a distraction, nothing more. But I know how important it is to indulge in moments of sensory delight – to live them fully as they present themselves. I know that is where life is. That if I focus my attention in the here and now, I will see little glimpses of joy that will come and go in real time but endure somehow, somewhere, in my memories. I wonder if the moments I am living now, in this new world, are getting laid down in my memory bank, filed under lilac, cross-referenced with cherry blossom confetti and bluebell bonnets so that when I stop to sniff these flowers in years to come, I will be back here in a world of deserted streets, masks and sirens. I would rather keep my earlier lilac memories distinct from the world that is unfurling here and now this spring, but what if I can’t? The body remembers what it remembers in whatever way it chooses. I cannot will myself out of this situation and, as I found out a few streets back, slipping out of it involuntarily, even just for a moment is perturbing. Better to stick with the here and now. And right now, that means smelling the lilacs. They won’t last. None of this will.

 

Bio: Sara Collie is a writer based in the USA.

Suffering in Silence

By Wafula p’Khisa

Dr. Makaja’s sexology clinic opened at 6 am. By sunrise, it was a beehive of activity. Clients were everywhere, hardly managing to keep a social distance from one another as per the new regulations from the ministry of health. Most of them had called to come early.

“Good morning!”

“Hello…”

“Bonjour…”

Dr. Makaja shouted greetings at his clients as he reached for the keys to open his tiny office. Their faces lit up as they responded cheerfully. It was clear that his arrival inspired a sense of hope in them. His secretary ushered them in, one by one.

“Hi Doc,” Pendo said. They could not shake hands. The ritual had been banned since the Covid-19 hit the world to minimize the possible spreading of the virus.

“Hi too Pendo. Please have a seat,” he said warmly.

“Thank you.” she said, folded the back of her skirt and sat on a bench opposite the doctor and his tiny table.   “Sorry for waking you up…,” she started as she beckoned a man in.

“Oh, never mind. That’s my job.”

She was with her husband. He could read joy written all over their faces. The first time she had visited the clinic, her marriage was on the verge of falling into oblivion. She was in tears, thoroughly beaten by frustration.

“Doctor, save my marriage please,” she had cried.

“I’ve tried to endure the pain for two years now… I’m afraid I can’t hold on any longer… I’m walking out…” she explained. Dr. Makaja was confused. He was torn between consoling her and listening keenly to her problem. He ended up doing both.

“I’ve never enjoyed sex right from our wedding night,” she said t.

He narrowed his eyes and looked at her, wondering what on earth could deny such a beautiful woman the glory of sex. Is she bewitched? Did her man fall with a sack of maize?

“That shouldn’t be the case. What’s the problem?” he asked.

“My husband roughs me up everyday. Every time he erects, he rams into me furiously and falls off once he’s reached heaven. Then, I would be hanging somewhere between Egypt and Canaan…,” she explained tearfully.

Dr. Makaja pitied her. But as a sexologist, he recommended that she brings her husband along for therapy and coaching. They had several sessions afterwards.

“Sex is not a one person’s moment of pleasure, but a detailed process for two people to derive pleasure from one another,” he told Dula, Pendo’s husband. “It’s not all about penetration and you are done. Think about her. Is she ready? Have you prepared her? Is she satisfied…?”

There was gradual progress after every session. Even Pendo banished the thought of divorce from her mind. Today, they came to thank Dr. Makaja for saving their marriage.

Six more clients came and left. Then a middle-aged man came. He looked withdrawn and troubled. After exchanging pleasantries and rushed introduction, Kioo proceeded to explain his predicament.

“I’m married with two kids. I last made love to my wife one year ago. It wasn’t an interesting thing though for my engine weakened and went off before I could reach the promised land. I chewed kumukombero the next day but the results were terribly worse. I decided to avoid sex since then…”

“Oh, that’s very disappointing,” the doc said. “How, then, have you been managing? Is she comfortable staying in a sexless marriage?”

“I arrive home late from work. She would be asleep then. Sometimes after supper, I watch the TV until late for her to be dead asleep before I go to bed,” he explained desperately.

“Well. So what’s the problem?” he asked gently.

There was a little silence. Then, in a subdued voice, Kioo opened his heart.

“You see, daktari, ever since we were instructed to stay at home in an effort to combat the Corona Virus, things went South for me,” he paused and looked at Dr. Makaja.

“Yes, go on please.”

“I’m zero-grazing in the house and my wife is on my neck demanding for sex all the time.”

“Have you been doing it?”

“Not at all doc! I’ve been dodging. I’m afraid I may not rise to the occasion and you know what damage that could cause if she discovers. But what scares me is that this lockdown is taking too long and I have run out of my tricks. She is already suspecting something.”

“I understand,” Dr. Makaja said thoughtfully.

Silence reigned again.

“Have you been suffering from any terminal illness?” the doctor asked.

“None that I can recall.”

“I think you need to undergo some medical tests and see if we can establish your sexual history. It’s only after that that we can tell the source of your problem,” the doctor explained.

A series of lab tests were carried out. It was established that Kioo had, for a long time, been on Viagra– a sex enhancement drug. He had stopped upon his wife’s complaints against his mechanical bedroom performance. But its long term effects started to show when he could not have a full erection. Upon the doctor’s recommendation, Kioo was not to touch Viagra again. Thence he had to undergo sex coaching and skills building. He brought along his wife for the doctor insisted that such an issue was to be handled in the presence of the two.

Three weeks of regular coaching would pass. In the fourth week, Kioo experienced his first full erection, thus restoring the glory in his marriage. But now, the lockdown is almost ending, and he does not want it to.

 

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About Wafula:

Wafula p’Khisa is a poet and writer from Kenya. His work has been widely anthologized and published in various online (and print) literary journals and magazines.