Micere Mugo of Africa and America: The Syracuse sequence

Burial site north of New York City is akin to Kirinyaga county, where the fallen poet and professor came from

In Summary

• A poetic tribute in the last of a series of posts in honour of the literary icon

A river in Mount Kenya
A river in Mount Kenya

Somewhere north of New York City in the United States is a lake of cobalt colour. It is named Onondaga. Onondaga is the name of one of the great indigenous communities that lived here long before Christopher Columbus dared to cross the Atlantic centuries ago.

Their name means “People of the Hill”. The place is not that hilly today in modern America, but is still a rolling rural-like part of the greater metropolis known as the Big Apple. New York.

The part to the south of the lake is known as Syracuse. Here is where you find the Oakwood Cemetery on 940 Comstock Avenue. It sits on 160 acres of well-manicured and pastoral landscape that will remind you somehow of the land of Kirinyaga county. The dominant oak trees of Syracuse are relatives of the ones we Kenyans call Grevillea (Guruveria). The oak to us is a symbol of farming life.

The lush Oakwood landscape, akin to a scene out of English Romantic poetry, the summer crisp weather which reminds you of the spot where you view the snow of Mount Kenya the clearest, and the summerwind that speaks in echoes of serenity here now, fuse to give you a spectacular epiphany of being in two places at the same time: America and Africa. Syracuse and Kirinyaga.

This is where the late Prof Micere Githae Mugo, a famous nature and conscience poet born in Kenya, will be returned to Mother Earth on Monday, July 31st, around 11am. She will be near her daughter Njeri Kũi Mũgo, who left us on October 4, 2012. Both are victims of the world’s silent pandemic: cancer.

Another funeral ceremony will occur in Kirinyaga county, where the fallen poet and professor came from. It will be a private event but interspersed with public celebrations of her great and noble life, legacy and lifework.

The celebrations are underway on both sides of the Atlantic and across Kenya. They will culminate in a spectacular public event in August at the august Taifa Hall of the University of Nairobi – her 1970s' intellectual manger.

In my funerary salute to this munificent matriarch of my poetic practice here on Earth, I now release my final farewell, in the form of the following three poems, somberness in my heart of hearts, as I pay my respect publicly to one who was early a harbinger of my rise as a contemporary Kenyan poet, thus: The Syracuse Sequence.


i. BEYOND MICERE - To you, I touch water with a stone/carving a name out of it so liquid. It takes the shape of the wisdom of your words/It takes the size of the greatness of your name.

It takes the nature of the third-eye/aperture that is your vision. Through it, we see the rainbow of Compassion. Past it we see the horizon of Comprehension. 

Compassion and comprehension/compress with time to a clap of thunder. Thunder of your caution against violations of mankind.

Thunder of your premonition about/better ages for children of liberation struggles/Thunder that claps out of skies/where suns defeat nights in epic battle to own the light.

Claps that form a canopy to unborn/babies of Africa. Babies who seize the equator as their navel/proclaiming the entire continent their shadows.

It will come to shadow you/that shadow that stands as a shield to our quests: Quests for yesterday, retold as/anthems of nationhood. Quests for contemporary adages/forged out of common sense. Quests in the form of question marks/whose shape take the the continent as a thought. Yes. 


ii. MICERE, MICEREAE. Micere! They say the longest journey on/earth is between the heart and the mind. Others transit from birth to death/without ever making it between both. Mama you made both and both/meanings became meaningful in your name of sojourn.

Micere! To be trapped between day and night/is the name of my moment. Now/ I have become a being lost in the/labyrinth of words, that hail from shadows of sunsets.  

Vows/I took two to never utter your name again/ the pain of your departure, made me make deeds.  

Thus/One/Who hears echoes that made your Meaning/ a sound so fuel; it engines the mechanics of Life?  

Micere! Two/ Walk with shadow that one is/ yet their bodies as wide apart are, as is the echo to the tomb of Time.  

Micere! Mathematics is no longer a game of the Mind/it is the bench where sit I to judge:  

Three/The size of the gaps/ you have made with your books and outlooks/ for us to fill with our minds.  

Two/The formulae that are so perfect/they lead one to answers of the sums of your sincere smiles.  

One/The signpost between food you made/us for the mind/ and the maze where your amazing name leads all/as the long road to the ancestral land of Utu! Micere, Micereae!


iii. DETONATION OF SILENCE. To pluck a flower with petals/purple, pin it to the halo on her head/to listen to wings of a Baricho dragonfly, sing....

Moments exist outside time/now when this melody turns to memoria/ like a song sung best in reverse on a flute from reeds of an ancient lake… 

Your absence is now like a puddle of water/ mirror where I picture Time/the crack on it is a pebble of pain/behold ripples new like rays of a new day upon a lake

The trembling timbre of the marimba/competes with heart beats of the Sun/ each note acts our history in dots or/rays... They buy happiness online nowadays/yet sadness cannot be sold/They say love costs money/ how much does melancholy fetch?

Where does a poet, find a better bargain, at what bazaar, to purchase sleep? I sit under a canopy shaped as a question mark/ the dot beneath it – existence put in a tight spot!

That my day may become my mind/My night let it my heart beat be/ your fading face, my sky and your name the/ horizon merged with one million teardrops, behold!

Your words have formed delight/ferried wisdom when you were in your Time/ now a fresh spirit, you exist timeless out of Time/ like your words as echoes across pages...

On them, I seek to find your mind/ your famous smile still lingers still/ it is a beautiful curve, each edge tugs/ towards heaven, Mama Micere!

Life is this tremulous tune/ out of conches of pain an ocean away. Yet in your final here-there/ drums of joy in the noon of life/Tom-tom-tom as reeds of the Onondaga dance hollow at dusk/ escorting you, as you exit, the tube of Time...

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