Shadows in the child's memories

The 9th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation featured stanzas as well as sessions and statements; rhyme as well as reason. Here, guest poet Evah Wanjiru shares some environmental verse based on her experiences in Kenya.

Evah Wanjiru's picture
Guest blog by
7 May 2015

Standing alongside IIED senior fellow Saleemul Huq, Evah Wanjiru reads her poem 'Shadows in the child's memories' to participants at CBA9 (Photo: Matt Wright/IIED)

There are lonely spaces in the sky;
Spaces where I used to prance – deer-like
Like the sky was a prairie – evergreen
Un-robbed of tufts spread lushly,
And bloom that I lay in, with emerald succulents
Sticking from the spaces in my teeth.

Here, I would find slumber and I would dream
Of un-choked breathing;
But when I, as an adult take in the air of my age,
I am perturbed by a stinging
That retch my lungs.
My child's memories are locked away
In paintings of the ethereal
Where color is un-ashen and pools run clear,
But these paintings are fairy display.

There are holes developed in the illuminate of the sun,
Such that I see specks of yawning
Whenever its blondeness spreads across the periphery
And covers the panes of my windows.
It has been long since I heard the aves chirp,
A phantom's dirge echoes in my ears
And I lay hope that maybe someday,
The painters will have their brushes long enough
To place burning embers in them.

There is a haunting silence,
A gloom that the winds have embraced,
A stubbornness that the zephyr has come to choose
That keeps them at bay from ruffling the treetops.
My memories as a child remember when
Nothing could fuel my glee
Like the whistle of these distant travellers,
Or the giggle of the leaves
When they were tickled,
I would run with them,
My tiny feet eager to catch their stride,
And my lungs, yearning for their freshness.

A hunger rumbles the belly of the sands
Beneath my feet,
They have become fissured from underfeeding
And their lips have become parched from thirst,
My soles find no comfort
In having them licked at the bare-feet of them
Lest the motherliness of the earth
Becomes too hungry and scalds them,
I yearn for when her sands were feather-cuddle;

I, as an adult relish in these memories,
I seek to remember how the rain's aroma
Smelt sweetly with every breath,
I seek to remember how I could dance in it,
Plodding in the puddles it formed.
I, as an adult relish in these memories,
I seek to engrave them
Past the painters' canvas,
Past the dripping oils
Where the land is though fairy, alive,
I relish in these memories,
But I desire to have that childhood restored.

Evah Wanjiru is a third-year student in the School of Law at Moi University, Kenya, and is a poet, spoken word artist and an environment activist. Find more of her poems and articles on her blog:  Steve Otieno also contributed to the above poem.

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