Ancient Past poetry

Across the way from Stabiae

October 22, AD 79 Tempus matutinus
Days before I turn to dust,
I embrace heaven in the doorway
and thrust my arms wide to touch the frame.

October 23, AD 79 Meridies
Rumbles drill; they ring closer still.
My part in it, I know not force.
I’m poet, philosopher, lector, and scribe.
One day they will see that …

October 24, AD 79 Opacare
Wide rules I use for rhyme and verse.
My mind is adrift…
One’s blessings are now cursed. 
Black days are rumbling:
(I am not the first; my ancestors’ chronicles
live in rhyme and verse).
Heaven intones in one flash burst
across the way from Stabiae.


MMXV.VIII.XXIII. Photo credit: “Garden in Pompeii” by Pieter BiesemansOriginally published on August 23, 2015. it was revealed that the eruption took place on October 24, 79, and not in August, as previously believed, so I updated the poem to reflect this information.


Machine Gun Meow’s remarks for Nadia Monsengo

Guest post by mGm on Nadia Monsengo’s essay
My thoughts on Africa’s Image Problem

The way they feed on the negativity of Africa is disconcerting. The media only shows negative images of Africa … They take advantage of the negativity of Africa and take advantage of the positive light it shines on them for giving generously.

Excerpted from “Nadia Monsengo” by Nadia Monsengo of African Artista

Machine Gun Meow

What an interesting and completely relatable post. Having lived in Australia for more than a decade, I am still surprised and stung by off the cuff remarks such as, “Oh, as an African, you must be used to the heat”; “Do you have tarmac roads?”; “Is your family safe from Ebola/ Al Shabab violence” and …

“But you can’t be African, you aren’t black?!”

Some of these are general ignorance mixed with polite concern. It is the ignorance that I take issue with. During my schooling years, we learned not just about ourselves as a country (Kenya) and a continent (Africa), we also learned our place in the world and about the rest of the world with equal focus.

I feel sorry for those who never learned about other countries and continents so that their view of the world now is rather self centric and skewed. They missed out on so much. African history and current affairs, as Nadia rightly mentions, are overly represented by the negatives, which every corner of this world has some form of.

I take great pride in educating anyone who will listen about the origins and richness of Swahili as a language; about the pioneer microfinancing innovation, M-PESA; about English being one of my first languages and how most people where I am from are trilingual; about the indescribable beauty of Africa; the unsurpassed warmth and comfort of a community-based outlook.

Everyone belongs.

Africa is more than a game-watching destination or a dumping ground for last-season’s-disposable-fashion-disguised-as-charity. I devote considerable time during such conversations to dispelling ignorant myths, most of which are laughable. But real change can only come from two sources: a shift in the media perspective so that it is not all doom and gloom; and a fair and reasonable inclusion of African history, geography, culture and civics (preferably with considerations for the diversity in the same) in mainstream Western education.

Of course, the audience must listen with open mind and heart.

I, for one, am proud of and grateful for the fact that my formative education was undertaken in Africa. I am so much richer and well-rounded for it.

Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

The Pool

“The future is open and we are writing it moment to moment.”
Pema Chödrön, Buddhist nun, teacher and author

<< What if I asked you not to return home right now?


<< If I made myself visible, you would go blind from the sheer stress on your visual cortex. The surge of energy would obliterate your neural pathways.

I can hear you. I can’t understand you. What language are you speaking?

<< I know. Hmmm… My brother and I are playing a game. He said that if I asked nicely, you would swim around for three more hours. He’s said I’m full of scorn for your species. I’m trying to reform.

Fraum? This is a trick. Pom!!! Stop. Come out.

<< He’s left you behind. He hasn’t gone to a better place, though. Well, not yet, at any rate.

First of all, I can’t see who is talking.

<< Please don’t go home now or else you will surely be killed.

Nonsense. No one can see the future. The Feast is over, Pom. No more festival tricks. Come out now.

<< You’re right. No one can see the future because there isn’t just one. We precisely calculate and see outcomes, in what you call the future, on any given string of intent.

String up in tent? That’s stupid! You’re stupid. Go away.

<< So be it. Ingracious beast.

The female twin pulls back to mull the situation over with her brother.

> You did not try hard enough.

<< His helical proteins fail to synchronise with this biosphere’s regenerative frequencies. That is consistent with his passive attempt at self erasure by swimming in that bottomless pool. Appropriate and amusing. I think we’ve made our point.

> His is not a significant loss. The data contained in his proteins do not contribute to evolutionary gains nor does it appear at any further point in the alternate timelines.

<< Good riddance. Let us leave him be.

Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

The Boy

The twins stare intently at the lonely boy sitting crossed-legged at the edge of the savannah. He’s passing time by observing empty space. Air is aqueous. The boy will sit there, as he does every day, until darkness falls. His eyes are large. Gelatinous layers of mucous slide around on his corneas. His irises radiate an iridescent hue of violet. His heavy lidded, deep-set eyes have double rows of thick, long, rose-coloured lashes that curl upwards and away from his face. They keep water from condensing in his eyes and obscuring his vision. His skin is a pulpy, greenish, translucent nougat. 

The twins telegraph their thoughts to each other.

> At this point in their timeline, a body on land needs gills to filter nitrogen from wet air. Based on their physiology, we assume that it is converted to an aqueous solution of nitric acid, which functions as battery acid for mitochondria.

<< Why are we interested in him? He is sitting there waiting for nothing to happen.

The twins pull back to mull things over.

> The boundaries for them are perceptual. They see, hear, touch and taste. These perceptions only serve to help them identify members of their own species in order to reproduce.

<< Beyond that, they’re oblivious to existence itself. They are not yet sentient.

> Does a mind need speech or language to have thoughts? They think in images, familiar ones. Therefore, to communicate with them, we must use familiar images in unfamiliar situations, highlighting the contrasts.

<< It’s a futile task, interfering with them. Just look at them stumbling around without purpose. They’ll become a vile and stubborn race, trusting only these limited perceptions. I am disinterested!

> Time is spherical from our perspective. So we can show the outcome of a course of action on a unique string of intent. Let a familiar image signal propositional intent. We need only show how their present actions will move them away from or toward a beneficial or detrimental outcome.

<< What about the Deluge caused by the fallout of this new asteroid’s explosion into orbit? These beings don’t know precipitation, nor have they seen their precious orb illuminated in the night sky. Perhaps you can encourage the boy to move to high ground. If he is receptive, he will survive to see the asteroid as it settles into its permanent space. If that happens, I will accept that our interference at key points in the newly created timeline will not be in vain.

> M’aal Arch, we have the perfect opportunity to test your ideas about them.

<< Agreed. We will interfere with the boy.