By Oyore wá Gamba
If I got the job, I thought, I would live forever in the old library- I may never die. The truth is, I spent hours, days and weeks postponing the application. Mr Khwesa, the old librarian, had just kissed his great-grandchildren, eighteen of them- goodbye. It was three days ago. They say, he died a long time ago. In him what was left was a husk of a man whose body and soul were held together by the strings of knowledge he had siphoned from the books, and whose heart still beat by the strength from the sun through the window by his desk. I was going to apply for the job about a month earlier. I did not, but eventually, of course, I would. For some reason, I thought old Mr Khwesa may get well, and that he may come back. As old as he was, feeble of limbs and strength unimaginable of heart, he, I knew, would still be good to keep being the librarian. Nobody ever thought of replacing him, you know. The walls of the old library knew him, they knew his voice and his face. The shelves, old and rusty, never dusty, knew the prints, line by line, on his bony fingers. He was with a different book every time I walked in, and that made me get a book, on mornings when I simply wanted to say hello. Truth is, he would actually make me get a book. That old man!
It has been fifteen months since I assumed this position as the librarian. When I first started, I knew it was going to be vigorous and engaging, to march my strength of youth. But comes these mornings, these particularly both cold and warm mornings. I resent the idea of it being in my head that old Mr Khwesa comes in these cold mornings with warmth. It is not an abstract and plainly idea. He does show up. I know for a fact that he was in the lines of ‘How did You Die’ that day I read it. I feel the old man’s presence, and a hoarse but gentle voice keeps calming down my anxiety- not his voice though. He is dead. He died well. Well, sometimes things do not happen because we do make them, but because they’re supposed to, and owing to that, the ghost of the old man is fated- I have to believe so.
The manager of the library is a stout and strict lady, with pale skin and blonde hair. Her skin is distasteful and the darkened pink on her sharp cheekbones looks like an open wound. I openly loath her- she knows, I think. I generally dislike bossy pink people. Regardless of her attitude towards those of us with dark skin, Mr Khwesa always told me to keep my head down. Like an ostrich, he would say, foolish but wise. I wonder what one gets from being lowly. I cannot keep working here. I also cannot leave the library. I belong here, right in the midst of these mountains of knowledge. I love the smell. I love the old rusty covers of the old novels and the red tape that holds their spine together. I particularly admire the knowledge carried in the old poetry and art.
There is a certain tattered painting hanging frameless on a rusty nail just near Mr Khwesa’s desk, of an old dark-skinned farmer tilling some land- or so it looks like it- the canvas is too old and tattered, I can barely see what was painted beyond the man’s hoe. The painting and I have connected in the fullness of our uncomfortable existence in the sensational beauty of the library, but well, in all our tattered remains, we belong in the library. I have to write a poem about Mr Khwesa and the painting. In this poem, I will include their connection and love and also the rusty nail on the brown wall, on which it hangs. I look at the painting closely again, pen in hand, seated near this rusty window, smelling the old books, partially seeing the blurriness of the early morning sunny air outside and the hot cup of tea at my tiny study table and I think to myself- ‘this must be the best place for me to die. This spot where Mr Khwesa spent his entire life, must be here that I must die. This has to be the perfect breath to be my last.‘ And I drop dead, cup half-empty, the sun barely out, this poem barely started.
Oyore wa Gamba is a Kenyan poet, painter, playwright and editor. He writes for adult audiences and takes pleasure in a life of imagination and fantasy of the mind. The majority of his poems are still in his journal. He has shared very few of his poems with the public due to personal reasons.
To read more work by Oyore wa Gamba visit https://allpoetry.com/Oyore_wa_Gamba or his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/OyorewaGamba