Written as a tribute to family, place, and bodily awareness, Mukoma Wa Ngugi's poems speak of love, war, violence, language, immigration, and exile. From a baby girl's penchant for her parents' keys to a warrior's hunt for words, Wa Ngugi's poems move back and forth between the personal and the political. In the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, the biting winds of Boston, and the heat of Nairobi, Wa Ngugi is always mindful of his physical experience of the environment. Ultimately it is among multiple homes, nations, and identities that he finds an uneasy peace.


(For my father’s seventieth)

One morning I burst into my father’s study and said
when I grow up, I too want to hunt, I want to hunt
words, and giraffes, pictures, buffalos, and books

And he, holding a pen and a cup of tea, said, Little Father,
to hunt words can be dangerous—but still, it is best to start
. He waved his blue bic-pen and his office turned

Into Nyandarua forest. It was morning, the mist rising
from the earth like breath as rays from the sun fell hard
on the ground like sharp nails. Little Father, do you see

him?—my father asked. No, I said. Look again—the mist
is a mirror—do you see him?
and I looked again and
there was a Maasai warrior tall as the trees, spear in hand.

Shadow him, feign his movements, shadow him until
his movements are your movements
. Running my feet
along the leaves I walked to where he was, crouched

Like him so close to the earth, feet sinking deeper
into the earth as if in mud, turning and reading the wind
and fading into the mist till I became one with the forest.

For half a day we stayed like this—tired and hungry
I was ready for home. But my father said, I did not say
this was easy—you cannot hunt words on a full stomach

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