Nsah Mala is the pen name for Kenneth Toah Nsah, a Cameroon-born poet, author of three poetry collection: Chaining Freedom (Miraclaire Publishing LLC, 2012), Bites of Insanity (Langaa RPCIG, 2015) and If You Must Fall Bush (Langaa RPCIG, 2016). His short story “Christmas Disappointment” was among ten winners in a short story competition organized by Cameroon’s Ministry of Arts and Culture in June 2016. In December of the same year, his short story “Fanta from America” received a Special Mention in a short story competition held by BAKWA Magazine. His poems and other writings have featured (or are forthcoming) in anthologies and magazines in Cameroon, Canada, India, Nigeria, and South Africa. He holds two degrees in (Teaching of) English and French and is currently studying for the Erasmus Mundus Masters Crossways in Cultural Narratives in France, UK and Spain.
I was born in fertile forests
where we toyed with reindeers,
but our leaders have smeared the forests
with sterility and intoxicated us with beers.
I was born in productive plains
where webcams are dreaded like terrorists,
but our leaders take delight in buying planes
and take those levelling fields for anarchists.
I was born in an aping community
where statistics are cooked like cow meat
since our leaders hide skeletons from society
and peel off enemies’ skins when they meet.
I was born in rubber and banana plantations
where my people toil and wave oil-loaded lorries
driving across River M**** to fuel vain ambitions,
and swell pockets for our immortal King’s glories.
(Perpignan, 12 November 2016)
I JOGGED INTO MOTHER NATURE.
(After my first jogging sport in St Andrews)
I’m afraid to feel like a rapist;
having raped Nature this morning,
but I was not first jogger on this path.
Once off from the tarred winding track,
I landed on an untamed pathway
that weaves along scanty bushes--
sometimes looking healthy,
sometimes looking like starving kids--
enlivened by rabbits skipping from place
to place along beautiful trails wrapped
across and between shrubs and grasses.
Oh! What a charming muddy-dusty footpath
that transported me, through the airports
in my mind, to Ijim on the Mbesa-Belo road!
You think I could overcome the temptation
to chase the rabbits for fun and for food?
(But I didn’t catch even one of their tails!)
You think I could overcome the temptation
to watch my past streaming on flat-screens
anchored within me? Sweating now in sports,
sweated then under heavy bags of crops for sale!
Each slippery spot reminded me how many times
I glided and fell under corn or beans or oranges:
the crops that have propelled me into now.
The three golfing men who greeted me
brought memories of Yaoundé Golf Club,
except that those in Yaoundé never greeted us!
Then I descended downhill and crossed a fence
like those we crossed at Ibal-Adamu or Ijim
on our way to Fundong; a signpost announced
that cattle is grazed there in winter, but I wasn’t
afraid as we used to fear cattle back home.
To the ocean shores I headed in boundless joy,
halted for selfies on ageless rocks and pebbles;
as I bent to taste the salty waters beneath,
I saw smiling waves rushing to splash and clean
the rocks, bringing along snail-shells and cowries.
Oh! How guilty I felt in Man’s place, like a rapist,
to notice waves enraged by our infinite stomachs
seize nets from greedy fishermen, bundle and hurl
them onto seashores for hygiene and sustainability.
When there is no human in sight to learn these,
the baby stream nearby continues to chuckle
down into the ocean as witness that if Man
handles Nature like an egg, all hopes will flourish
like dry-season tomatoes farmed on a swamp!
(St Andrews, 18 March 2017)
I'm against all lives in extremes.
This only puts us on one another's
throat, obscuring our reality as brothers,
bursting the sweet bubbles of our dreams.
Can't we learn from Mother Nature?
Even oceans that stretch to extremes extend
back to the land where they kiss and bend
to dance to musical notes from bands of Nature.
We need ourselves, we need one another like
dung beetles need cows to chew their food,
not as cruel cats need mice for their food.
Both cats and mice have a right to this life.
We need ourselves, we need one another to live
like plants need bees to help impregnate them,
not as wicked wolves need sheep to feed them.
Wolves and sheep all have a right to live.
Why then slash her through for religion's sake?
It's a shame to kill life to please a lifeless ideology!
Why carry explosives to burst yourself and kill others
like a fowl's egg exploding in wild fires?
Why then hate them, Muslim or Christian or Buddhist,
because of their multi-named invisible sculptor?
Brother, I invite you to peel off your religious mask
like a snake and walk forth to the aisle of humanity.
Sister, I invite you to strip off your populist mask
and rub your body against mine in a human embrace.
Syrian is just a tag, black is just a tag.
American is just a tag, white is just a tag.
Christian is just a tag, nation is just a tag.
Muslim is just a tag, refugee is just a tag.
The only real thing is you and me.
The same red blood is busy in the veins
beneath our multi-coloured skins.
The same heart drones like a car engine
behind our black or white or coloured chests.
The same air rushes in and out of our lungs.
You were born, I was born.
You will die, I will die.
This is our shared humanity.
Remove your goggles of materialism,
drop your loaded guns and reciprocate
my love held out in my open arms.
Let's intone a new human song today.
(St Andrews, 13 April 2017)