“Msema Pweke Hakosi” by Alexis Teyie


Msema Pweke Hakosi:

Euclid in Kiswahili is possibly Ugaidi

1. Kiburi|Kaburi

I don’t need a phone booth to be a superhero:
just an unfaithful tongue and a world
of uncalibrated axes.
This is my superpower: kumimina. Interstitial loving. Cross-caressing.
The Over-Lover. The Under-Sharer. Deliberate rubbing. Kupapasa:
reveling in the frictions of frivolity. Dreaming in the cracks of Kiswahili,
TV Korean, marketplace-livingroom Luo, unreciprocated Englishes, and see,
a little Sheng to slip through crevices, but dammit a lot of teeth
to make up for it all, for breaks in messages:
Alikufa jana. Ati alikuja jana? You’ve got my wires
all tangled. What I’m good at is inbetweenness,
cape or no cape. Skiza, maiti haulizwi sanda. Let’s
try that one more time: Mpanda farasi wawili
hupasuka msamba. Na watatu? Kumi?
Or, wait. Axiomatic systems. Euclid – Ukilidi, Ikridi? –
gave me unbounded space. And isotropy.
Radiating from center, O, Approved English varnishes
ashy primary school faces. Regurgitate, as charged:
Mayai gotu detoilet?

Fine, I lied. Miye nyumba ya udongo;
sihimili vishindo. Wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow,
it’ll be okay to die. Today, we’re superheroes.
Dictionaries for shields, insulting criminals in
sixty languages, translating love letters, accepting
nothing but the right pronunciation
of names in classes everywhere.

Euclid, mhenga wa Alexandria, commensurability
is another word I’m grateful for. The intimacy of geometry,
of bodies lined perpendicular to the ground – proud and dead and unspeaking.

2. Fikiri|Fakiri

The only way A is up, if they are to be believed, and B they are – believed, I mean. For me, C it began simply: an importune smile, a clever comeback, a little too quick at math, too bearable an eyesore. The tell-tale sign, possibly, might have been the D lingering over a delicious word or three, like, say, compass? Repeating sentences, foolishly. Replaying instances of splendour in public spaces. Regardless, the initial charm wears off. Now you’re a bother, you speak funny, wouldn’t outgrow poetry, refuse to think of money first E, and if that isn’t a curse, it’s close enough. F

3. Sahihi|Sahili

Sometimes it is simple.
X=X. Teyie=Teyie.
The reflexive property of equality. God’s grace.
The only problems I wanted to solve began this way:
Lots of soft edges, and blunt curves. Lakini uhakika si haki.
Transitivity. Abrogation. Permittivity. I know enough words
to know they’re not enough. But sometimes, it is simple
and right and full. Kwa mfano: Mnyamaa kadumbu.

4. Huzuni|Uhuni

These are a few Euclidian motions:
Translations, rotations, reflections.
They alter nothing. I know these well.
Circles, also, are shapes my feet understand.
I wasn’t always a wastrel. It’s the accent,
maybe. I’m not sure how to laugh in English yet.
I’ll get there, given time, because it’s what I want,
I think.
Euclid is believed to have said:
There is no royal road to geometry.
That is to say, kila chombo na wimbile.

Alexis Teyie (@alexteyie) writes poetry and speculative fiction. She’s an ardent feminist and book-hoarder.