I got up in the night,
foot pad on cold tile
an edge broken and crumbled, sharp,
and stood at the window
watching the near light turn blue,
watching the sea gap before sky
hardening from indigo
its white reef ridge
a chalk line marking the end of sea,
watching limp frilled palm leaves shiver
breathing with the quiet dry rasp of tide on sand,
my foot still sore where the jet smooth needle
where it slipped through skin into flesh,
skewered and stayed
until Hero, the boy from the village,
peed a hot stream of acid yellow
which pooled on the sand
and I laughed
at its ordinariness.
Arrival at Mombasa
At Mombasa after rain the potholes pool red
blood spotting the runway,
shining like clots in the sideways zinc-glint of sun,
slicing through clouds the colour of bruises.
You’ve been here before. I know.
But not by air,
by open car, too-fast spraying rusted earth along dust roads
coming from Nairobi.
Too fast to smell the resin-high frangipane blossom
or pick mangoes,
growing wild as blackberries in a hedgerow.
Too fast to the cobalt sea.
Your knuckles are white-boned gripping my hand
thin skin soft stretched
as the wheels skid on rain,
but we slow to standing
and the scent of Kenya begins to seep in through the cracks:
a sweet tang of hot damp air,
of earth-mud and diesel.