World’s End

Hi everyone,

Something different in this post.

I would like to introduce you all to A Tang Poet from Nairobi. This blog is about the Complete Poems of Li Shangyin Interpreted into English by Mark Obama Ndesandjo. At the end of last year, Mark introduced me to Li Shangyin’s poetry and I was so enticed by the poetry itself and also Mark’s interpretations which are written so beautifully. Mark wanted to present the work of the fascinating Tang poet Li Shangyin to a western audience in its entirety. Interestingly, he also looked to integrate his personal observations and meditations on Kenya, China and America using Li Shangyin as a muse, so to speak.

We worked on the idea of creating a blog to achieve his vision and share Li Shangyin’s work.

I am reblogging the post World’s End because I really enjoyed every bit of it and just to share with you how skilfully he has connected different concepts and graced it with his own calligraphy and a beautiful Musical interlude.

We would be very interested to have some feedback about this type of poetry and its interpretation, so go ahead and leave your thoughts at A Tang Poet from Nairobi

Read more about Mark.


Lake Turkana, Kenya also called the Jade Sea

Once upon a time, in a year I do not want to remember (but long ago), I took a safari tour across Northern Kenya. On a day I also choose to forget, I arrived at the end of the world. Scarped slopes lay accusingly in the distance, behind Lake Turkana. Round-bellied children looked up at me with bittersweet eyes that grew large and soft each time they giggled. By the fishing villages, the jeweled lake spread like liquid silver over the plain, ending in a vast mouth that slowly devoured the rosy red clouds. Trees had fled and boulders and sand wrapped around us like a petrified mist. Countless pebbles, smoothed by eons of erosion, became a handful of dust, slipping through my fingers, like tears of coal. My heart welcomed the sounds of children, but loved even more the indifference and solitude of the dry air.


春日在天涯, chūn rì zài tiān yá
天涯日又斜。 tiān yá rì yòu xié
莺啼如有泪, yīng tí rú yǒu lèi
为湿最高花。 wèi shī zuì gāo huā

At the end of the world, on a Spring day
When the sun sets,
Were the nightingale to sing, imagine its tears
Sprinkling the tallest flowers


Musical Interlude: Rachmaninoff Prelude Op 32/10 played by Mark O. Ndesandjo

Sergei Rachmaninoff’s prelude evinces a fatalistic, fins de siècle mood. I recorded this piece in Nairobi last year. If one listens carefully one can hear birds in the garden!

Lake Turkana – is the world’s largest desert lake. Lake Turkana sustains the tribes in Kenya’s remote north, but projects upstream threaten its lifeblood. Read more about this in Last Rites for the Jade Sea

About the Calligraphy
春日在天涯,天涯日又斜。莺啼如有泪,为湿最高花。At the end of the world, on a Spring day, when the sun sets. Were the nightingale to sing, imagine its tears sprinkling the tallest flowers. (3 rows, 20 characters, Cursive Cao Script): M.O. Ndesandjo.

Image Credit

New York Evenings

Today I am sharing this delightful piece of writing by my daughter Alya Kassam
You will find more of her work here

New York Evenings


Writer’s note: 
“This was a piece I wrote for my English assignment. The question asked me to imagine I’m on the street, turn my eyes slowly from left to right and describe what I saw. This was a bit of a challenge for me considering I mostly write to express, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing this. I’ve never been to New York, so this piece is entirely from my imagination.”


It’s an early evening in Manhattan and the city is as busy as it ever was. I’m standing at a junction about to go, but I decide to have a look around. I’m looking to my extreme left and there’s a window of a coffee shop. The setting gives off a calming ambiance. It’s busy, but not crowded. The furniture is vintage, but has a sophisticated touch. The lighting is bright, illuminating the expressions on each and every customer’s face. There’s a couple that’s engaged in an excited conversation. Her eyes are lit with excitement and her smile is from ear to ear. I can’t see the expression of the man, but he’s leaning back, and it looks like he’s laughing. On the table to their side is a brunette girl who looks like she’s in her early twenties. She is sipping coffee and stealing glances at them, possibly envious of what they have. There is an old couple with a younger man, possibly in his late twenties. He must be their son. The old lady’s expression is calm. She has a gentle smile as she listens to the young man talk. The old man is more active in the conversation, laughing heartily at something the younger man says. I see the waiters bringing cakes and coffee mugs to the tables and collecting their tips. They have no time for facial expressions.

I proceed to look straight. The sky is a faded blue and the sun has gone below the horizon. The cars are driving at a medium speed. There are yellow cabs, silver cars and several motorcyclists. The street lights have started to switch on, showing the different shops in the street. There is a bar, where the cars are starting to park and the men are walking into, hoping to enjoy a fun Saturday night. It appears to be busy, from the looks of the number of people walking in. It looks like a dentistry with dull white lights which have switched off. A man in a lab coat steps out, probably the dentist, who is done for the day. He removes the lab coat, places it inside a car and walks straight to the bar. A large purple sign is flashing. It says “Bounce!” which is a warehouse filled with trampolines for children. I can see parents taking their children home while they beg their mothers to stay for longer as their fathers ask them to be quiet. There is a young lady in a trench coat who is standing opposite me. She brings out a violin and begins to play. She could be famous or she could be close to homeless. But her eyes close and she lets the strings do all the work. I can see she is quite passionate about her music.

Towards the right of the street is a fast food restaurant selling pizzas. Many workers are taking boxes of pizzas and putting them in their motorbikes as they drive off into the evening. Teenagers are laughing and entering the shop, hoping to enjoy a good night with delicious food. But to my extreme right, I find a music shop, whose lights are still on. There isn’t a single customer; the only person in the shop is the faithful salesman. I can see the classic vinyl records, which are framed. Stacks of old CDs are placed on the racks. I spot a section with many musical instruments. I can see a shiny black grand piano and a large golden saxophone. A large selection of guitars are placed on their stands, from the small brown acoustics, to the large black electric guitars. Stacked down are ukuleles, violins and cellos in open cases. The wooden material looks untouched, carved to perfection. The salesman sighs — out of disappointment, I presume — switches off the lights and locks up. He spots me looking, then turns around and heads on his way and I do the same.

so little, so many

The other night, I wasn’t in the mood to tackle a Twitter poetry prompt but still wanted to write…maybe to provide my own inspiration. So using my twitter handle @sonyakassam, I threw around a couple of tweets thinking they may eventually give me an idea for a poem, basically I was talking to myself. To my surprise and delight @aleyakassam replied prompting me to keep tweeting. And to our further delight, we were soon joined by @just_sham_it and the 3 of us kept tweeting in turns at such a fast pace. The spontaneity of it all was the best part, and magically it has formed into a unique form of poetry that I am proud to post here. We enjoyed speaking our minds, insinuating through this creative interaction and hope you have as much fun reading it.

Colors are not (only) to brighten up the poem, they refer to the person who tweeted the couplet, I’m sure you would have figured that out ;-)

so little to say
so many ways to say it

so little to say
so many people saying it

so much to say
so few people saying it

so little to hide
so many stealing it

so much to protect
so few up to it

so much freedom
so few liberated

so many lines
so few colouring

so much pain
so few praying

so much pain
so many just praying

so many minds
such few thoughts

so much insanity
so little humanity

so many deaths
so few mourning

so many alive 
so few living

so many tweets
such little wit

so much to have
such little it means

so many heavens
just one earth

so many chicken wings
so few burgers

so many cooks
such little broth

so much music
so few dancing

so many destinations
such few walking

so many laughs
such little joy

so many mothers
such few fathers

so much civilization
so few civil

so many talking
such few being

so many answers
such few questions

so many magazines
such few trees

so much history
such few memories

so many borders
such little land

so many gods
such few blessings

so many houris
for just one jihadi

so many nights
such little sleep

so many dreams
just one night

so many candles
such few moths

so much light
such little illumination

so many mice
too little cheese
unless we bring down the moon
with the weight of our dreams!

 May your dreams tonight
be but a shadow
of what your hopes are
for tomorrow

Aleya and Shamit are brilliant and passionate writers, have a look at their blogs and you’ll know what I mean

What else is there left to say except that it takes …

… so little time to leave
so many comments

Do let us have your thoughts about the verses, and feel free to add some of your own. 

P.S. this post inspired my poem many borders

Through the eyes of a 12 year old

The title for Dungeon Prompts Week 11 is Peace – Just a word? What does it mean to you? Well whenever I hear the word “Peace” I immediately think of the poem my daughter aged 12 at the time wrote. If I tried, I could not express “Peace” in a better way. In particular, I love how she explained “But what is peace?” Please allow me to submit her thoughts and efforts in response to this week’s challenge


– Some wise thoughts from KimberLite (then aged 12)

The war breaks out once again
Will there be benefits to gain?
Oh Allah, please help us
Please bring us peace

Do we really need war?
Do we have to fight each other?
Do they not realize
That they cause pain and cries

But what is emotional war?
It is when one feels bad about another
When one only has sad thoughts
When one holds the past to him/herself

When war breaks out
We have one request
One thing we need the most
What we need most then is peace

But what is peace?
It is the good thoughts
The free mind
The opposite of war

So enjoy peace while you can
And from there don’t start a war
Or try to carry it around
Oh Allah, thank you for peace


This poem was originally posted here
Her other poems are Undefeated Stallion
& The Spring Chrysalis

Perspectives of Love

The 2 wacky wannabe writers are at it again. SweetNut and theWhisperer share their Perspectives of Love.

To hate is to love 

What is love, but the poison of a snake
administered by gentle words and soft kisses

As you slowly sink into a blissful smile

of infinite sleep

An opium dream

When you wake, there was not a soul with you,

yet you smile, remembering….

The comfort of the dream chasing away the cold reality …
we go alone to our coffins

Crying dry tears,
wishing for one more night

The Pistachio Shell

The Pistachio Shell

(An exquisite depiction of a pistachio shell by theWhisperer) 

His fidgety fingers found the groove in the shell
Clamped tight shut by god’s mystery spell
He longed for the sweet nut encased in this shield
To taste the secret heaven he tried to reveal

The more he squeezed and pressed and tried
The harder the shell kept him denied
Annoyed, he threw down the shell and looked away
Then a silent voice came and was heard to say:

“Your force and bluster will not work here
I open neither by blows or threats nor in your fear
If you would taste my secret then with tenderness ask
I will shyly make easy your impossible task”

So he held the secret in his hand and with tenderness began
Kissing the groove with gentle words and no forceful plan
He invited the nut to open her shell
Now not for him to devour but enjoy her spell

Her secret was this, that her sweetness is hidden
Not forced to reveal whenever she is bidden
But with his kindness and thoughtful touch
She taught him and he learnt so much

Undefeated Stallion

Undefeated Stallion

(Perhaps my favorite poem by KimberLite, at age 13)

Mane as black as ebony
Worth more than the most money
Runs across the desert
Is hurt less than he has hurt
The undefeated stallion

Those angry eyes view all evil
Radiates misery even through a veil
Never broken down even by the worst
Because he is the best, the first
The undefeated stallion

Stronger than the hardest metal
Could win the best medal
But has no friends and has no feelings
Haunted by his very own killings
The undefeated stallion

So vain he refuses to cry for mercy
Ignores all sense of courtesy
But we all pray for him in his last breath
We wish him well for after death

We wonder about his life’s length
Marveled by his power and strength
Until the day he crashes
The pain he will be haunted by lashes

And he will be for the first time in a million…
…the defeated stallion

The Odd Couple

The following is a series of 3 poems between a heartbroken couple, he who cannot stop hurting her and she who cannot leave him. In their words is the struggle between leaving the one you love and giving him another chance. By theWhisperer and SweetNut (2 wacky wannabe writers)

The Odd Couple
(theWhisperer’s initial poem, beautifully based on nature’s odd couple – the crocodile and the plover bird…)

Dear reader, let me show you something for you to give thanks
Come with me to Egypt and the Nile’s river banks

See the toothy beast, monster to all
Yet friend to a little bird with the sweetest call

The all devouring fiend, without heart or care
Cannot live without the little bird who fears not his glare

He opens his jaws and lets her in close
His tongue and teeth and on his large nose

See the little bird spreads nothing but joy
Cleaning his teeth for its food is its clever ploy

Both benefit from this curious deal
The beast is cleaned of his sin while the bird has a meal

Outsiders don’t know or will never see
The beauty in their love each others devotee

Each has a role and must never stop
Stuck together forever, evolutions joke shop

(SweetNut replies him…)

Mutual benefit once was there
Now not much left to share

The beast cleanses yet continues to sin
The devoted bird is left crying and thin

Trying hardest to fly on a broken wing
He ropes her back keeps her within

Her other wing breaks
She limps over the lakes

He roars sweet nothings, cries for her
Heart bleeds she cannot go far

O mighty one you are self sufficient
Please let me bear not the brunt

Teach me to find my food
I will love you always is understood

(theWhisperer responds … )

If you must go, then go with my love
But I beg you to stay and avoid fates cruel shove

The beast is a beast and does what beasts do
Impulsive hungry and greedily jumping the queue

Your wings are broken your heart is left sore
If you wish to escape then I cannot bar the door

We have much yet to take and much left to give
Being apart from you is no way to live

The beast needs his little bird because she is his home
Even surrounded by others, without her he is alone

The Spring Chrysalis

The Spring Chrysalis

(Another beautiful poem by my daughter, KimberLite at age 14)

And even the sun will wait
Awed by the stunning glow on your face
The wind will stop mid-air
So the leaves can stop and stare

The birds will walk instead of flying
The sharks will sink when you are gliding
Across the silvery crystal ocean
And now the world is silenced by your motion

Watch the duckling become a swan
Amaze the world with your breathtaking form
For you can tame the wildest rattlesnake
And walk on the waters of the largest lake

And watch the world blossom in your eyes
Greener than the trees bluer than the skies
The life of the dead now new and fresh
Welcomed by their own blood and flesh


Spring is the time of land’s awakening