Self-portrait in Sleep: M. K. Angwenyi


It is more the August than the September that signals the start of something, half-hearted as the transition is.
In my dreams, your hair appears longer. Long enough to tie close to the nape of your neck. In real life, I am approached by a Jeep of men in army fatigues, asking where the college is. The first thought: I shall be accused of being a drunken whore. The punishment: rape. I escape this thought, as I escape them, quiveringly pointing in the direction of the college, hoping my voice doesn’t betray my body. My voice is my body, nonetheless; it’s these neurons I don’t know what to do with. You exist in some kind of folded dimension, and intrude this one of ours through our neurons in an unknown way, as an understudied neurosis. Thus, I can’t tell if your hair is real, or if it is my way of telling that you are real. Go, specter, go and build a celestial house. Don’t forget the trees. But before you go, I love you, ja? 
You aren’t waiting for me, timelessness has trapped you. I am waiting for you, in the way that only time can allow. And I will see you again, even if it means never finding that boundary between August and September. 
I want to say something about the falling, twisting, diminishing way we become strings in the fabric of time in that blurry, hyperliminal space between sleep and wakefulness. We herniate time with our dreams, we suffer the choice between purpose and the lack of it every time we try to make meaning of these and other things. What we must do, in order to survive these dimensions that not only do we question but that question us as well, is to return to that Being outside time and to discover how it is we can stand so tall and even taller when there is no space around us, only within, as in a dream. Is heaven a dream? Who builds the houses in our dreams? 
I glitch into and out of consciousness, or the idea of space outside space, the infinite boundary around this finite field, the way I discover you – aimlessly and without need, without want. Only to realize that just as the cut begins to form, at the moment of your death, this is the purpose. Now ten times the retribution for my ignorance of time while I’m alive, which is to say while I’m here, when we can use the word here. You see how I get lost. 
I remember a time I would get lost in the scrawlings behind my eyes as a child. I’ve forgotten how to start somewhere and trust that I would still end up here when I open my eyes. Is it not to take a trip through the universe we can’t see? Is distance only a metaphor for thought? Thoughts. Incompressible as light. Heavy as its absence. Semi-deifying love. Which is every kind of love at separation. 
Now I am awake. And what follows is what I know to be true, whether in August or September. 

The thing that happened?

What a mercy it has become. 

The silence between us has softened. 

And you rain, rain, rain, 

In the darkness. 

You rain all the way to wherever-it-is.And I can hear you from there still. 


Michelle K. Angwenyi is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Brunel Africa International Poetry Prize, and for the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize. She has a chapbook, Grey Latitudes, forthcoming from Akashic Books and the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) in 2020.


Illustration by Angela Chilufya

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