The Barren Land

this land was fertile

this land was productive

this land was a plantation

yes, a banana plantation

yes, a coffee plantation

yes, a forest plantation

but weeds flooded in

weeds set it on fire

weeds choked trees

weeds cleared bananas

weeds burned the coffee

weeds assassinated the land

till trees held a meeting

and chose their delegates

to drive out the weeds

but the weeds fought back

weeds resisted the agrochems

and bombed the soil

distorting its fertility

and the land is still barren!


———Stephen M. Mutuku———

My Mami Wata Was Broke

I saw her off my room

escorted her to the crossroads

where she took the unbeaten path

not a foot had been set in it

it led to the unknown

and she trod on it

and with her went my heart

and my riches followed her too

leaving me in this barren land

hollow, lonely and broke

a stone in the depths of my chest

and I couldn’t fall in love

though I wanted to


i returned to the crossroads

and took the unbeaten path

hoping to get back my heart

but the evil forest swallowed me

swiftly sending me to my grave

for spirits live with spirits

and spirits dine with spirits

and reunited with my mami wata

but she was a goddess of poverty

that is why i died poor

with no family to retain my name!


———Stephen M. Mutuku———





The African Drum


he cuts a log out of the forest

and with chisels makes it hollow

then fixes awo oju ilu (dry goat skin making the head of an African drum)

tightening it with sisal strips

and with ocher draws its patterns

a complete African drum




someone plays a guitar

another plays a violin

and all are sweet for my ears

but mandinka tunes sabaro and kutiro

putting awo oju ilu

near the log fire



the guitar was sweet

the violin was sweeter

but sound sabaro kutiro

na me na go crazy

my waist breaks na dance

sabaro kutiro ejaculates sweetness

that supersedes guitar and violin

the sweetness of an African drum


——Stephen M. Mutuku ——











Don’t Call Them African

Why call them African

and they know not our ways?

African children know our ways

African children know our languages

yours’ know not our language

for pidgin is their language



African children, African children

know not posh cars

know not posh schools

know not your posh curriculum

know not perimeter walls



African children, African children

know hunger as their portion

have jiggers on their feet

have shanties for their shelter

know the taste of violence

what about your children?

Know not a mud hut

know not a jigger

know not the scent of hunger

yes they have a black skin

but can’t suit our title

don’t call them African!


——Stephen M. Mutuku——

A Chain of Victimization

I once was a victim

in that sisal plantation

when the sun was high

the whip fell on my back




I can’t count the times




we revolted

the white masters left

we thought of redemption

but new colored masters

took reigns of the plantation

and made the whip vigorous

redemption was imaginary





my son fell by a bullet

when he threw a stone

fighting for my land

victimization here

victimization there

why am I evicted?





I heard the news

pupils were tear-gassed

then trampled on with muddy boots

as they demonstrated

against the grabbing of their play ground

by a black civil servant

for construction of a business park

when will victimization end?

—————Stephen M. Mutuku—————

Mutant Butterflies


in the orchard

you found me


a mutant butterfly


on every ripe grape

yearning for a companion




in a wild flash

you zoomed into view

a mutant butterfly with scarlet lips

warbling a lovely tune

that drew my attention

and blew away my oracy



I trembled

as if before the oracle

then you planted

your lips on mine

and made the rivulets

that flooded my heart

and made it an orchard

where our love grows


————Stephen M. Mutuku————






Servants of Knowledge

as servants of knowledge

we stream to the storehouse

sort books

cook books

eat books

all for their power




armed with their power

we rush to the podium

in front of those hundred eyes

fifty hungry heads

yearning for the power

and knowledge of books

we serve them

with chalk and board






we serve

without discrimination

we serve

the power of books

we serve

knowledge and skills

we serve

for servants we are

and servants we remain

—————Stephen M. Mutuku—————