The above is:

  1. The sound I made when a policeman’s kibooko1, swung at full force, struck the back of an old woman for selling fruits on the streets.
  2. The look on people’s faces when a woman jumped to her death into Nakivubo Channel while trying to escape KCCA operatives.
  3. The first word to escape my mouth when I watched a suicide bomber blow himself into pieces.
  4. What a boda-boda man called a taxi driver who closed a gap to keep us all in traffic.

Note: All answers are correct but choose the most correct one!

Kibooko1: Luganda word for a whip. It can also be a stick one picks up to beat another person.



Of things I can take for granted,

Your name isn’t one.

I will not call you babe.

Babe is not your name.

Babe, just a noun.

Yet your name, a deep strong root

that connects you to your ancestry.

A firm healthy trunk that holds

all the branches of your life together.

Your name, the fruit that holds the dreams of my family tree.

Your name, like the napping of the cotton on your head.

Your name, like the pigment shining within your skin.

Your name, big as your breathing organs.

Your name, like the size of these succulent lips.

Your name is your identity.

Babe is not your name.

Your name is Akello.

The Day After the Killings


And finally the sun was out of hiding.

We ran to the newspaper stall

Like we were running for our dear lives.

We lift leaf by leaf,

Looking for Mama’s name.

We look everywhere in the papers.

                        Under the bottoms of naked models,

In the posh cars of European football players,

              In the state’s newly purchased fighter jets,

But nothing.

My sister’s tears crawl down her cheeks

She looks on, makes no sound.

My uncle sits on the ground, carrying his hands on his head.

Of course we don’t matter, even when we are dead, he says.

My baby brother says Mama won’t find herself.

We have heaps and hips of bodies to turn.

I look at my sister but do not speak,

Even with knowledge that she needs hope

That we shall find Mama,

Dead or alive.

Tears at My Funeral


Sometimes in my solitude I wonder

Who will cry at my vigil?

And for what reason they will be crying?

Amidst the theater of people fighting for food

And porridge, goodbye-music as their sound track.

Maybe it will be the man tending the bonfire,

And the smoke from the affair between the coal

And fire would have offered him no choice.

Maybe the woman who will own me till death does us apart,

And it will be the fear of living alone,

Or maybe the fate of our kids.

Maybe it will be my mistress

Crying over the spear-eyes my widow and her family shoot at her

Maybe it will be from the cuts of the words they will sling at her

I know, I have no one to cry for me.

I am walking this earth

In places where everyone would rather take than give

Why would they give me their tears then,

When there is a microphone to brag about

How they helped me?

Cover image: Untitled painting, by Ervafsiuol, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons