Reading Yvonne Owuor I

Akai-ma “wards off ghouls and bad night entities, wrestles God, casts ancient devils into hell before their time, and kicks aside sea waves.” Akai-ma feeds hungers that cannot know themselves, “retrieves those who belong to her,” holds secrets in barely-there scars. And, here, a child died. And, here, a child could not learn how to linger.

She laughs in the
going there
wind

the secrets
women
keep

*
And what happened here?

Akai-ma is a laugh, a kick, a tear, a disavowal: “you are not, are not, are not my

sentences trail off
sounds uttered
into
voids
(how do we hear you in the in-
complete-
ness

(as though she will have told
everything)
*
She is always interrupting (a bath, a sentence, a mourning), always too present, if spectral (what is this unending mourning called madness): shall we call her touched: touching

(all the men wanting
her)

(Odidi: where is Odidi?)
*
There is something obscene to Akai’s feeling: it is too much, too there, too present, too pressing. It makes discomfort, goes beyond what should be borne.

Akai- ma will be mad. Flicker of
laughter. She was mad.
Akai- ma.

(Mad in this excessive feeling:knowing, feeling:thinking, feeling:being, feeling:hunger)

*
What if Dust is a novel about Akai’s hungers?

Akai Lokorijom.

She flows like magma, every movement considered, as if it has come from the root of the world. Tall, willowy, wasp- waisted, her breasts still large and firm, she is made of and colored by the earth itself. Something ferocious peers out of dark- brown eyes, so that even her most tender glance scalds. Her voice, a bassoon- sounding, gravel- colored afterthought. At unpredictable moments, for nameless reasons, she might erupt with molten- rock fury, belching fire that damaged everything it encountered. Akai was as dark, difficult, and dangerous as one of those few mountains where God shows up, and just as mystifying.

“Blood cakes her body in thin strips”

an AK-47, “the four- kilogram 1952 with a wooden butt stock and hand guard, is strapped to her body, cradled in a green kanga with an aphorism written on it: Udongo uwahi umaji, “Work with wet clay.”

(Khanga theorist, Dr. Mshai Mwangola, teaches me that there is a khanga for every occasion)

A cradled gun held by a grieving mother in a khanga: this image arrests me, undoes me, remakes sense-worlds, vision-possibilities.

(Dust is replete with such moments of arrest, moments of re-visioning, moments when we realize the incompleteness of narratives and images we had imagined stale:
*
Akai is always leaving, always restless, always unsettled and unsettling, and even when she tells, it is not all that can be told, and is, often, more than can be borne

To be undone by the compassion of her untelling

Akai’s

Yvonne’s