My conscience is clear –
Well, Ngumo doesn’t go to school, My children-
Take him along on Sundays; when
He is not herding the neighborhood cows for
A little pay, Me, I pay through the Patron.
Actually I neither know his other names,
Nor what he thinks,
He’s always so quiet,
For sure I don’t know where he comes from:
But I know the Patron -the man with most cows,
Gets him a place to sleep.
Ngumo is herding for greener pastures,
I hear he was so quiet
These last two days,
Mama says the patron’s wife
Has quarreled him,
He’s soon replaced – by one
Speaking with the voice of men.
He is 13 years old
Said his name meant fame,
He brings in the cows on time- 5P.M,
And waits for the next assignment,
My wife offers him a cup of tea,
Which he takes behind our kitchen.
He sips his tea quietly,
Well, in good days he gets a snack as well
But not so today,
Can’t tell whether he had any lunch,
One of these fine days I’ll talk to my wife
About treating him well…
My conscience tells me he needs so much,
Yet he asks for nothing,
Infact my children like him a lot
And receive him so warmly,
One of these fine days I will talk to this fellow,
But not now.
(Picture courtesy of courtesy of habarizajamii.com)
How this was processed in the mind of the author (poet).
- I describe in a 36 lines poem a hired shepherd/herds boy’s life. How he interacts with his hirers (the Patron, Mama, patron’s wife and the author’s wife and the author) and of course the author’s children. There is an apparent lack of human touch in many of these interactions, except between him and the children.
- The boy tries to transform (maybe upon entering adolescence/teenage- initiation to adulthood in many African cultures) but the renaissance does not bring him much.
- Though he becomes more thorough in his work; takes the cattle to greener pastures and is more time conscious. He does not desire to mix with the little children anymore (ultimately denying himself the much needed touch) though they still need his company. He continues to be treated as less human. As usual, he does not complain.
- The author (homeowner) seems to have a conscience that he ought to do something, maybe speak up to him (man-to-man talk) or perhaps mentor him as a father would. He desires to speak up for him to his wife or the Patron. But this does not happen. Thus the title of the poem is informed by the conservative nature of the author and meets the theme of this competition ‘Human Touch’.
- [The poem My conscience is clear by Simon Kamau A.K.A Compleat Nurse appeared in The Human Touch 2014 is the seventh annual anthology of poetry, prose, photography and graphic art from the Anschutz Medical Campus community at the University of Colorado].
- See another poem plus other great nurse poets here.