Song Of The Unborn Dead


We are those for whom there were no goats to tend
And so we were not particularly wanted
We were helped on our way by a dirty needle
Kicks, blows, high heels or simply
The strained back and the all-consuming hoe

Maybe she – she warm, moist and all embracing –
Desired us, but by consensus it was decreed
That we should not be heard, even if seen
We were crowded out
By a clamour of hungry voices, or perhaps
A rounded schoolgirl vision with a white dress
A garland and a sofa set
To welcome us if we should come again

Most of us conformed
As is the custom: in those who hung on
Our leaping was an offence, our anxious turning
Had something of presumption in it

Some of us have come back
Owiti or Wepukhule at least
But for the rest of us there is now way out
Even though the side wall of the house
No burying-place for the precious cord
We stick at it

So if you are brushed by a spider-web at nightfall
Or disturbed by the chirping of childish cricket voices
If your cow is sucked dry without a cause
Or blood-loss comes to you as disappointment
Remember us who were intended to be
And have no name to come back to.

By Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye


About the author

Born Marjorie King in 1928 in Southampton, England, Marjorie travelled to Kenya to work as a missionary in 1954. She worked at the S.J. Moore Bookshop on Government Road, now Moi Avenue in Nairobi, for some years. There she organised readings that were attended by, among others, Okot P’Bitek, author of Song of Lawino, and Jonathan Kariara, a Kenyan poet. She met Macgoye, a medical doctor, and the two were married in 1960.

In 1971, an anthology entitled Poems from East Africa included the acclaimed poem “A Freedom Song”. Her 1986 novel Coming to Birth won the Sinclair Prize and has been used as a set book in Kenyan high schools.[citation needed] She has been called the “mother of Kenyan literature”.

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye died on 1 December 2015, at her home in Nairobi.


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