Empty Cups

In Anticipation of Coffee:

In the end, it comes down to one sip. The last drip. The moment you hear the faint drained intolerance to the unsaid bits.

Echos unspoken, crawling behind the smiles — fake. You know they know. You know because you can’t unknow the ‘unuttered’ hate.

But you sip. You can’t spit. Because you know good and bad things come in threes. You know it’s inevitable. Variation is the way of the end, the truth of growth, the price and prize of change.

So you sip. Cold, hot, warm, milk, dark, chocolate. You sip. A blip. A spot. A smudge. You sip.

Because only empty cups get to be filled again.


Originally published on our medium publication: Self-ish.


#IYAGriotNights: Episode Two #Poetry #Events #Buea #Cameroon

“Poetry is for the bourgeoisie”; “Poetry is for the literary elite”; “Poetry is like wine, you need to be either a lover of the craft or an expert to enjoy it”.

That must have been what was going through the minds in the audience of the very first #IYAGriotNight. On that 12th of December, 2016, the few curious individuals who settled at the lounge didn’t know what to expect. A majority had never seen a live Spoken Word Poetry event before. Many were students of the University and as well as Silicon Mountain enthusiasts. For others, this was an initial visit to the erstwhile Alliance Franco Camerounaise. In its stead, “IYA: Food and Culture”.

“IYA” means “mother” in many Bantu languages.

“[IYA] is a canvas upon which the community is called to create. What you see now was once a dream in our minds. It represents the love our mothers, our IYAs had for us. In Africa, we don’t have a culture of mothers saying “I love you”. They show this love through meals; through the incredibly rich recipes handed from one generation to the next. That is what the “Food” part of IYA represents. But what many haven’t seen yet, which our communal ethos is built on, is the “Culture”. We have a huge repertoire of collective Arts that the world is dying to discover. The IYA Griot Nights is one more step in this direction.”

The IYA Griot Nights is a monthly event whose sole purpose is to remind us where we’re from. A griot is a professional oral historian. Our grandmothers were griots- they told stories of war, of love, of the stubborn child or the greedy king. Stories of “sense pass king”.

Leslie Meya “Kibelle”

Poetry is just one form of oral expression. It is one of the most beautiful tools of storytelling. Spoken Word Poetry needs the artist to perform his/her poem. This makes it not only entertaining but especially important in conveying emotions to the viewers.

The Cameroonian spoken word scene has birthed global sensation like Stone Karim Mohamad. In Yaoundé, the Goethe Institute has hosted events and competitions that has seen world class performances. However, the impact of the Spoken Word Movement hasn’t reached this part of the country yet. But this is changing.

World class Spoken Word Performers include: Erykah Badu, Grand Corps Malade, Soul Williams and Souleyman Diamanka

During this first event, the audience was so inspired that a few had their own pieces read on the spot. Simo Jandie gave us a witty and humorous reading of his piece from his Facebook post titled: “My Power Bank”.

That evening, the photographer and media personality- Tito Valery, who happens to be a Spoken Word artist, shared a lot with the audience. He said when he heard about the event, he swore he would travel from Yaoundé to attend it. And he did.

Tito Valery

Nine performers took to the stage: Monique Kwachou, Njoka Mavin, Leslie Meya, Malcolm Koh, Orlyne Passy Nopoudem (duet with me), Nzonda Kenneth and Erwin Ayota. Halfway during the performance, members of the audience opted, on the spot, to perform pieces of their own.

Nzondah Kenneth
Njoka Mavin
Koh Malcolm

It was an emotionally laden event that ended with the audience looking forward to the next #IYAGriotNight.

Poets prepare your quills, viewers prepare your minds. A date has been set, the venue is maintained and the menu rich with emotions galore!

Pin your calendars! Saturday, 28th of February, 2016, we welcome you once more to the gust of Zeitgeist that IYA is blowing on the cultural scene of the nation. This time around, two critical conditions.

1. Poets: No papers on stage.

2. Audience: No ticket= no entry.

The IYA Griot Night will always be free. You just need to grab a ticket from Eventbrite. This ticket grants you a seat and a drink.

New rule: poets send video versions of your performance by Tuesday, the 17th of January.

There are no themes, all we need is: you, your story and your emotions. Follow this link for to fill the submission form.

There would be a Spoken Word Poetry Know/Share session at IYA to teach the intricacies of Spoken Word performance. These would be 2–3 hour sessions facilitated by the Spoken Word Curator during which skills and techniques for better Spoken Word Performances would be exhibited real time.

In order to be part of the audience, follow this link to secure your seat:

Come and watch history being made, again.

L-R: Tchassa Kamga and Orlyne Passy Nopoudem

Organiser of IYA Griot Nights: IYA BUEA
Facebook iyabuea Twitter@iya_buea
Nestled afoot Mount Cameroon in a colonial build that once house the French consulate, IYA is home to a world-class restaurant, cocktail lounge, literary café and creative spaces.
IYA, a one of a kind gastronomic experience, pays homage to Cameroon’s rich and diverse culinary and cultural heritage, balancing traditional elements and modernity in a multipurpose space. Check our website — — for more information and do not hesitate to get in touch with us. It’s always a pleasure.

If you read this, my erstwhile love…

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I found joy in the silence of your kiss-the one you took away.
I found peace in your touch-the one I won’t miss.

I searched my memory for the agony of my loss-your loss.
When our song came on SoundCloud, it spoke fondly to the rivers of my eyes.
I talk to myself now. Just like I used to before you came.
The song is no longer sad, I must admit. You were a fond color.

A hue of sorts.
A friend…of sorts.
My friend.

Were you?
Were you mine?
Were you my friend?

I no longer call. But you stopped first-my loss.
I know I wasn’t wrong this time, you were- our loss?

There is desire in the sheets we shared.
No. Not for you.

A longing…of sorts.
Sometimes I squeeze.
Sometimes I wash.

Last night, I made love to myself: A cup of milk, a movie, a laugh alone.
It featured our favorite actor- I won’t hate him.
I tried. But I like him more than I loved you.

Did you?
Did you love?
Did you love me?

I look forward to never seeing you again.
I might smile when I do. Do not be alarmed, it’s my evil plan.

I would hatch a scheme to watch you crawl.
Seize your light and make you fall.

I do not hate you.
Hate is soft.
Hate is weak.
Hate is handicap.

You disgust me.

I will not forget you.
Or your bedroom hymns.

I will not forget the promises I made the day we met.
Nor the rage you left when you sent that text.
I will not forget you, my erstwhile soul mate.
And you should not forget that I loved you.
That I knew your soul and your desires.
The goals you craved and the prize you deserved.

I will not forget the reasons why you smiled.
Or how you blinked when embarrassed behind those balls of wonder I loved to kiss.
Yes, those…I will miss.
Yes, you’re right. I won’t miss.

If you read this, my erstwhile love, I will like to thank you for bringing me closer to myself.
For teaching me what I cannot stand and the desires I cannot condone.

I must thank you for letting me try to be human.
It’s a hard job. One I love taking weekends off for.
Remember: I meant every kiss.
And on this letter, I mean every hiss.

For your own good, let’s never meet again.
You might not recognize the monster you trained.

How He Killed Affection

Let him tell you of heartbreaks. Of tears he hid and dreams he killed. Of the memories he replayed long after the kisses died. Let him tell you of rejection. Of unrequited love. Of emotions suppressed and denials endured. He could tell you of the time when she said: “This is not working out.” Or of when she needed space to think. He will tell you with a smile. While you hold your throaty lump tight. He will tell you the blouse she wore and the dog that strayed. He might tell you of the date. If you’re not lucky enough, he may only remember the hour and the minute.

Let him tell you of failures of the heart. Of the laughs he faked and the lies he told himself. Of the persona he forged and the mechanisms he acquired. He may tell you of the letter he wrote…and burned. He may tell you of the unsent SMS, or the cancelled voice note. He could recount the old pillows that saved his teary tale in cold, liquid embrace. He will tell you of the body weight he hasn’t been able to gain. Of his incessant penchant for jokes and laughter, of his book drug abuse and his writing exorcism.

He may mention his new resolve. His understanding of love and the day he killed affection. He could paint the clouds, but he won’t. He could tell you about the song on Trace at that moment, but he won’t. He could tell you of the matching shoes she wore and of the speech she had prepared. Yes, the speech, he will. He will tell you how at that time it made no sense to him. How he laughed with his boys and texted the next available glass heart. He will not tell you of the supper he left cold. Of the desires he left enflaming. Of the rage he carried, chiefly against fiction, for making him believe in soulmates.

Let him tell you of the decision he took. Of the vow he made. Of the smile he wore as he said to himself: I’m too old for this shit. As he deleted the pictures and edited his memory- a task he would tell you, was a waste of time, but that “I had to at least try”. He may mention that it was the day he realized he’d changed. The day he saw his own worth. The day he finally admitted to himself that he would never find what his was looking for, simply because he was always looking.
It was the day he said, earnestly, without reserve and believing with his soul: fuck this shit. I’m done.

What a comeback post huh? Did you miss me? 😀

“I guess na ma own cross this today”

Sunday morning. After yesterday’s rain, wet plants and muddy tire trails map the general direction to the Community Catholic Anglophone Parish. The Mass started half an hour ago.

17  year old Susan is reading from today’s scripture. She is nervous. Her blue gown slightly tout at the front. Her high pitch voice dangles through mispronunciations and the struggle to maintain a less than confused tenure. In front of her are 200 or so eager Christians.

She has done this before. She is getting better at this, she thinks.

Sitting and gawking are other community members. As well as her best friend from high school. Her mother and her siblings too. James, the young man she secretly admires, is somewhere in that crowd.

The phonetics of certain words elude her. She wished she’d practiced them more yesterday during the rehearsals. Unfortunately, her Mom needed her to return early.

“Anyway, I will do what I can. I am here already and everyone is watching. No going back dear”

Susan rushes through the text as best as she can. She is very relieved when she reaches the last words.

“Thanks be to God”, she mutters as she leaves the pulpit.

Father Kevin, leads shortly with the Gospel. Visibly impatient. A usual solemn gaze is plastered across the altar. His youthful voice stretches the speakers, ever so close to their exploding point.

Ears are relieved with his chant ends:
“This iiis the Gospeeel of theee Looooord!”

The crowd responds in Christian unison. More grateful to be able to sit than for the Holy words they just heard.
The benches squeal from the weight of malnutrition. Body odors merge and private spaces amalgamate. Only the knowledge that the Mass will soon be over keeps the high school students from outright rebelling and staying outside.

A few have that courage- idle till the Mass is done. Then, come in as soon as the final blessing is about to be bestowed.

Parents call it teenage angst. The kids know it as independence.

The less courageous ones, like Susan, wield holier than thou looks. They offer mental sacrifices for their cramps to subside and for the lady with the colorfully embroidered 30 centimeter high head scarf to fall asleep so that they, too, can see Father speak.

Like Susan, the only reason they came was because their mothers had promised hell on earth (or rather lack of food and degrading verbal insults) if they’d not completed their chores that morning to join everyone in the family wagon.

Father Kevin is about to start his sermon. It is very difficult to follow from the static blaring loudspeaker, especially when your ‘neighbor’ had to come to Mass early without fulfilling toillette etiquette AND insists on reading the Sunday Newsletter just above a whisper. He could just spare you the knowledge of his morning meal and read in his head, you think, then you remember you’re in God’s house.

“I guess na ma own cross this today”.

“Er…Suzy…before I start, I think I need to find out from you…do you have a dictionary? Because…”

When Father mentioned Suzy’s name, she had smiled. Thinking that he was about to congratulate her on her eloquence. That, maybe, James would pay attention to her name and that her mom would be proud of her and let her watch Secret Story later on TF1. She had made a couple of mistakes. But granted:

“At least I tried nah”, she thought to herself.

She felt the word “dictionary” was odd in that speech. Especially if it had to be in her favour. Something was off. Very so. Then Father’s words hit her full on the forehead.

“It’s “Exalted” not “Exhausted” eh, make sure you use your dictionary well, you should not make this kind of errors in Church. “Exalted” means…”

Susan knew what the words meant. She recalled the exact moment when she faltered. But, at that particular instant, as Father turned to look in her direction from his language pulpit, she also remembered that the whole congregation was listening and everyone was paying close attention to Father.
She could feel the pull of gravity receding and the eyes, laser beams, soaking up Father’s glorious wisdom and heavenly English prowess.

Throughout Mass, she responded and moved mechanically. Her head seemed heavier than usual.
“There seems to be more people in church today”, she thought.

Whenever someone smiled, she imagined them saying:
“Hum. Show Show tin. She can’t even pronounce common Exalted. Tsuiiiip #disgrace”.

Her head felt like a log. The kind she carried back in boarding school during Works on Thursday afternoons. Balancing on her shoulders was a task she now had to perform consciously. She mutters to herself regularly now. That was the only voice she could trust.

“I guess na my own cross this today”.

After mass, Susan smiles and greets her Mom’s colleagues. The perfunctory smile and rehearsed responses.

Her best friend shows up:
“You read well oh. You made a few mistakes too. But you read well. Like when you said…”

Susan hopes Becky would realize that she is not paying attention. That she would just kindly move away. Because her plastic smile could soon melt. Becky never did. She always yapped that way anyway. Even in school.

No wonder she was always working punishment.

And Susan kept her act. After all, it was the Rainy Season and the sun wasn’t going to be out anytime soon. The Mass was over and James was nowhere to be found. He’d probably been idling around the Church premise anyway. Or maybe he didn’t come today.

She uttered a silent prayer.

On the ride back, the nimbi gathered like a painting mocked up in haste. Her mother in her morose self didn’t say much about Susan’s performance. She vaguely cautioned her daughter.

“Do better next time, y’hear?”

As soon as they got home, the drops started. Slow, steady and drowning in quick succession. Susan rushed to take the clothes off the line,away from the impeding Bafoussam-like deluge. She seized a bundle of clothes from her elder brother and told him she’d take them in. ‘Thanks sis’, he said and smiled.

“So, that’s what a real smile looks like.”
She turned on the lights, poured the clothes on her bed and sat down. The tempo increased on the roof. She took off her shoes. Laid back. Letting her legs dangle for a while. The clothes cushioned around her. Embalming her wet blue gown.

She shut her eyes.

She didn’t hear her mom calling to tell her to unplug the fridge. That the thunder and lightning could damage the device.
She didn’t notice ENEO exhibiting its electrical display of force.

She thought of the rain. The lack of sunlight., of James, of Becky’s yapping and all the eyes in church. And of Father.

She cast away her plastic smile and took a deep breath. The smell of OMO and cheap hair oil. Father’s speech played like a ‘Sergio et Marimar‘ episode in her mind.

She plastered her hands to her face. She could no longer feel the fake, sticky plastic. The room, dark. Loud, lonely and dark.

With no one to watch and no eye to fake, she let the tremors take over and the liquid heat drown out.