Ukombozi & Other Poems

Zafrina Nyawira Muthoni Njenga

The Silencing

There is a child screaming in an apartment not far from mine
but all children scream, I am 22, I have learned this, I am silent.
There is a woman screaming in the road, the road just before the estate I live in, the road with the streetlights intentionally shattered –
but all women scream, I am 15, I have learned this, I am silent.
There is a student screaming in a classroom not far from mine –
but all students scream, I am 13, I have learned this, I am silent.
There is a crowd screaming at my grandfathers funeral –
but all crowds scream, I am 12, I have learned this, I am silent.
There is an urge to scream when the much older boy touches me in a region of my thighs still unfamiliar to me,
but children aren’t meant to scream for no reason, and we aren’t to tell lies about grownups –
even when they aren’t lies.
I am learning this. It is my eighth birthday, I am silent.

There are other screams, born of the same evil.
These screams come in threes:
the scream of metal, the scream of agony and the scream of silence, in that order.
I am 10 years old, I lift my head out of the book in which I am immersed, out of a world in which there is no screaming:
I turn to my mother,
she’s muted the television.
“What was that Ma?”
Another scream.
Ma shuts her eyes tight.
“Nothing my dear,” she smiles, and unmutes the television,
and so I learn, like the times before, and the times to follow, that it is nothing, and that I can be silent,
Until I learn that it is not and that I cannot.
For I have known the silencing, and I know it does not mean the absence of noise.


Do you remember the first time he raised his voice at you?
Did you feel a tremor in the walls? In the ground beneath you?
Did the foundation of your being crumble ever so slightly?
What about the third time? When he backed you into a corner
did your mother, going about her business,
feel a pang in her heart?
Her little girl who she had loved so gently
 – sand castle built so delicate,
toppled by a wave.
Did she sense it? Did she know? Did you?
How about the fifth time?
You know the one.
It was the first night you hit the floor,
you wondered if it was always that cold.
Do you remember, you heard sirens blaring in the distance?
the realisation
that they were not in fact,
coming to save you.

Before you

I was eight years old when you found me,
did you think I would forget?
Minding my own business at my birthday party.
You took me by the hand, smiled, told me to take you to my room,
to show you my toys.
I wish I knew the kind you were talking about.
I have a photograph of a little me standing in front of my birthday cake from that day, smiling.
Oh! The way I smiled –
Before you.

The Trauma of Christ

I picture him vividly when I leaf through the pages depicting his torture.
I picture the aftermath: the shaking episodes, the panic attacks, shortness of breath, inability to eat or sleep or be –
symptoms like mine –
I, made in his image.
I think to myself, I ask,
What of the trauma of Christ?
Was it accounted for in the grand scheme of things?
Part of the sacrifice?
Did he know not only what was to come, but what was to follow?
I sob for Him, deep heaving, head bowed, hands shaking.
I say a silent prayer for His healing.

Zafrina Nyawira Muthoni Njenga is a poet and writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She is a psychology major and this is her first official publication.


*Image by I.am_nah on Unsplash

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