Three new poems by Bethuel Muthee

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents previously unpublished poetry by Bethuel Muthee.


Movement Home

It’s a bold step into the maelstrom, on the stage.
Eavesdropping on darkness.
We thought ourselves spelunkers into
Caves of dreams, of speech that slips.

Riding the surf of self-immolation,
We do it to ourselves, to each other.
Plant seeds and our mothers’ dreams
Of punctured skylines and muted horns.

The bus stop is a stage in life.

Buildings circled looking for the grace of unwanted music,
The reality of rhythm, visions of broken …
Motion and how it numbs us.
A language of mourning dogs.

Falling in metamorphosis,
Larvae in green netting,
What are you when the cranes are gone?

So how do you change?


Record Hunting on River Road
(for Sadat)

A still-life in dying daylight, edges chiseled in departures.
Books piled precariously, mint chewing gum
And habits that might soon be principles.

Maybe I mourn him best when Eastern Sounds plays
Remembering those whose recordings in my mind
Are being erased, overdubbed.

The stages we will never shine, not playing
Our understanding on closing night.
Memories behind curtains.

To be steel—essence.
To be, still—presence.


Point Zero

Sculptures welcome us at the door to this house of collected time.
Silence gathers itself to make room for our voices.
Time’s distance evident in the newspaper clippings:
a heritage bequeathed, a heritage almost lost.

What do you make of the pot in the middle of the room?
This house of hatches, matches and dispatches
where distance begins, from where it is measured,
collected. A replicated room and a painting on the wall
whose title we cannot find in the catalogue.

Smiling like the monkeys on my shirt, we pose,
crowned, adding our memories to those collected here.
Textiles, costumes, books, stamps, jewellery—
I listen to the music of your earrings.
Zero is an endless circle, nothingness repeats
itself leaving only a hollowness, a hole.

The coffee that should not move the distance
between kitchen to table, table to mouth
I collect my thoughts as we hug,
pulling you close, leaving no distance

but this perfect circle of love,
a hole, where we hide
keeping the world outside.
We touch.


Previously unpublished, © Bethuel Muthee, 2018

  • Bethuel Muthee is a poet living and working in Nairobi. He laughs and dances with friends at Maasai Mbili every weekend and calls it making poems. His poems have been featured in Kwani?08, Jalada Africa, and Enkare Review.

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

Header image: Farnoosh Abdollahi/Unsplash

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