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At Gunpoint – Nick Makoha


To conclude all soldiers must die

some by bullet, some by knife
the sharpest cut is betrayal.
Lips are their usual servants.

I have herd men say We will serve you.
It is a way of inventing a landscape.
An iconography conceived to reveal
virgin territories whose mountain plains
and tribal inhabitants are a garnish
as part of a failed colonial experiment
of the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The Times will report of people being
forced to volunteer to avoid becoming
a body hiding in a toilet or a corpse
folded on a table. Others will say he
saved them, and yet others will flee
by passage out to a border that no
longer exists. I have only made it
as far as the long grass. Holding
my breath words are now shadows
walking me down a corridor
of all the wrong things that brought me here.

In this scene my body is the protagonist
watched by soldiers in patrol cars. Roof down
the front windscreen frames them.
Amin’s voice bleeds from a radio
wafting up into a window of sky.

In this cracked republic I have made a film
of my life and played myself. A man can’t
but look into his own imagination
to solve the conflict of himself.

Should I have been the doctor,
or a poacher in the clearing, a mad man,
or shepherd boys minding their business?

I do not want to know the whistle of a bullet
in the air or how it seeks blood to release
the weight of the soul. I thought only men
without sin had the right to throw metal stones.


Nick Makoha was born in Uganda but fled the Idi Amin dictatorship. He subsequently lived in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, and currently lives in London. His first pamphlet, The Lost Collection of an Invisible Man, was published by flippedeye in 2005. His second pamphlet, The Second Republic, was published in the African Poetry Book Fund’s ‘Seven New Generation African Poets’ series, and will be forthcoming as a full collection from Peepal Tree Press. Nick’s one man show, My Father & Other Superheroes, recently toured the UK, and he has also toured to the US, Finland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

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