23:23 hours, I pass this young man,
In a dimly-lit street on my way home,
Selling sugarcane, trying to earn,
Wheelbarrow half-empty, should go home.
I move on, my head in another world,
Unlived dreams haunting, broken promises,
Mama says, start a family before you bald,
Empty bed awaits, Valentines spent nothing on roses.
I come by this betting shop, one of the many dotting the city,
A familiar voice calls out my name, turn to meet friend of mine,
Asking for handout; he’ll win and pay back, and he’s a pity,
His lovely wife and two kids at home waiting, together they dine.
200 years ago that sugarcane seller wouldn’t be out seated on a wheelbarrow on a cold night,
At such an hour waiting for buyers ’cause end month is near and still no rent,
He would be coiled in his hut or manyatta, on a cow-skin bed waiting for first light,
To crawl out and start his day, crops in the field need someone to tend.
200 years ago my friend wouldn’t be standing in a betting shop at such time,
Staring at a screen hoping for a miracle; he wins, family gets a meal,
He would be snoring in second wife’s home, out at such time would be a crime,
Not unless he’s a night-runner, torch in hand running from hill to hill.
200 years ago would be married to beautiful women, neck full of attractive beads,
I would be a warrior and a successful farmer, the third esyaki full,
A warm home with a well-swept yard, filled with shriek voices of happy kids,
Trade with neighboring luo, Kalenjin and Baganda; get rich then rule.
200 years ago I wouldn’t be in here all alone,
In these streets, lest I find myself in slave traders snare,
Chained in a slave ship, sad and my heart forlorn,
Tears for love ones never to see again, fear for unknown raise my hair.
200 years ago, you wouldn’t hear of gays and their rights,
That was taboo, if not cleansed might anger gods of the land and sea
You don’t want famine, evil sea spirits causing crew frights,
Maybe I’m the only one thinking about past when future is here to see.