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On Reading the Poem I Should Have Written

a fresh new poem by Mukoma Wa Ngugi

On Reading the Poem I should Have Written

(for Ron Wallace)

Mukoma Wa Ngugi


Having broken through the picket line
into the State Street Barnes and Noble
in this time of war
I am leafing through Long for This World
until I am stopped 
by “why I am not a nudist”  
-- a poem about sending the seen
back into the unseen 
or returning the nude
into the folds of the mind.  
Here, words
are like black 
and white passport 
that cover patches 
of her flesh until the poet
can recollect 
all of her in the moment
between waking up and getting up.





Mukoma Wa Ngugi is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University and the author of the novels Black Star Nairobi, Nairobi Heat, and a book of poems titled Hurling Words at Consciousness. A novel, Mrs. Shaw (Ohio University/Swallow Press) and a collection of poems, Hunting Words with my Father (Africa Poetry Fund/University of Nebraska Press) are forthcoming in 2015.  He is the co-founder of the Mabati-Cornell Prize for African Literature and co-director of the Global South Project.  In 2013, New African magazine named him one of the 100 most Influential Africans.