This epic poem, celebrates the experience of one commuter, on behalf of all those that do hop on and off those myriad minibus taxis on Kampala's streets, sometimes called matatus, but actually better regarded as killatatus, for reasons you are about to find out...
Oh I love the road, but it wasn't always in this way,
But I have seen much, touched and tasted more
And overwhelmed with unshared experiences,
Sought me an interface on a cloud, and so I could
Live each experience, persisting all I could express
For you my child, and for you-
Cursing besides me as traffic police jam the traffic,
Or you looking out the window, in search of a better life,
Or you seated at the steering wheel, unknown to
Who you might kill, Or you, lost to all but your social app,
Masked in feined likes and insipid feeds, as loneliness
Eats at you from inside, amidst a crew of 14 strange lives,
All potential real friends or fiends, upon a minibus ride
Specially crafted by fate so; you can almost occupy
The same space, at the same time, moving
At the same speed, but different lives;
Where any could potentially be the basis
Of your entire future life or your afterlife.
And so, let's be immortalized in unity,
So our journey can live on and live long,
Long after we get knocked or the box rolls,
In different caskets traveling on, but still one and on,
Flowing and breaking on, upon these pages I write on.
To you, reading or traveling on, resist not, the call
To observe and celebrate each instance of yours
Or another's life, as you cruise
On those dusty and bumpy roads of ours,
Seated or trapped in a car you don't really own,
Sailing or just dragging through life,
As one of many that must experience what it really means
To commute daily, on those racing boxes mimicking busses,
Called matatus in past lives, now baptized killatatus.
And now, let's see how the word is born...
It often starts at the park; one big
Monstrous field of dust and schemes
Or at some usually sorry landmark, that
Fate compels you to be at, when a blue-stripped casket
Picks you up. Yes, unlike yours eternal place of sleep,
Yet in kinship with mortality, hosting death's cousin, sleep,
And offering little freedom of limb and mind; the shell
Of metal, only lacks in wood and sorrowful song
Compared to her kin.
It's been written, the pilots of these things
Are crafted and carefully commissioned from hell;
In the same batches and from the same crucibles
As the ill-minded, road-perverted boda-boda daimons;
Whose souls it's said are possessed of a
Mysterious yearning for fast, fracture-induced death,
And a perennial preying on insult, curse and wrath.
They are killatatus, wrongfully called matatus by
The uninitiated. They make signature whines;
A curious mix of rattling, chokes, and audible toils-
You can easily tell there's something wrong with their oils,
And their sound reeks with sensations of aging tin foil.
They're arrogant when embracing humps or the many
Species and mutations of potholes on our roads, many of
Which deify any holistic classification and only warrant be
Called holes; shitholes, sewerholes or temangaloes.
After all, went one authority on these matters,
We've left the thief to exit with the tape,
After we let the Orients craft and oversee both
How we walk and where we walk:
Make us killatatus, and make the roads too!
Oh, maybe we love this or maybe,
People choose to get aboard them, then get trapped
Without choosing it - yeah, it's like we always choose them!
No, the killatatu chooses you!
And this encounter,
Preordained, unfortunately, is one of many facets
Of the cosmic comedy, and many such things you can't remedy.
Ought be clear, if you've ridden the killatatu for a while,
That real people aren't the only regulars at these rituals-
Encounters of the sad kind often manifest;
With roaches, lice and other incarnate vice on one end,
And nomadic chicken and goats with goatees on the other.
There's possibly more washing bays nowadays than cars,
But the spirits haunting most of these caskets
Detest water touching theirs inside. Consider;
Seats dehued with dust or the headrests
Onto which only a witch's head can dare rest.
The back of each seat preserves the corruption of
Previous hands, and if you dare look into their windows,
You'll behold what's grosser than glare smeared there,
Now, I once challenged myself thus;
To find a mathematical application for the killatatu,
And one of the ideas my rusty sense of numbers conceived,
Was to use the tally
Of women in every one of them I boarded, as a
Natural random number, in the shady range - zero to thirteen.
I set out to hunt true randomness, for fun mostly,
But alas! All my noble attempts met with solid futility;
Counting did I, many a ride and day, and ever it was-
That as many vacancies as there would be to fill,
So would their be bosoms in each killatatu!
And as for that hateful row -
Adjacent to the conductor's seat? Consider it an omen,
Should you ever find more men upon it than women,
On a day otherwise void of any other menacing events.
So have I considered writing my statistical gem thus found,
And after baiting men of papers with it, framing it,
Hanging it high onto my virgin walls, it read thus;
"Ye who trod the rock so-called Earth,
Know ye that more than gray grains of sand,
Ye shall find women everywhere! More at birth,
Even more, gazing hypnotically about or naught,
In every killatatu y'all be entrapped in, whilst trekking life".
The way gods multiply avenues of virtue and vice
Ought to teach us about the mathematics of ours fate,
Through which we cruise or curse, seated somewhere in a killatatu.
'Tis Wednesday evening, not the funkiest of days
And you obstinately decide to wait for the killatatu that'll
Take you off to your destiny, for bitano, where others are
Eyeing a primetime jackpot of a K; whether you alight
Immediately after the conductor bangs his gate, or
Proceed all the way to where their ilk delight, it's all a fixed rate.
So, I caught this blight, and stood there for minutes on end,
None of these folk'd succumb to my apparent desperacy
Under waning sun, on a day without fun.
Each one stopped by earnestly, only to speed off briskly!
And like times of the kind, delved into proper Thomas mode;
Observing with utmost precision, any perceptible light
Originating from between any thighs, upon a boda bike
Happening to pass by, with creatures that gravitate the eye.
It's one of those delightful masculine arts, only liberals and anarchists
Dare to perfect, and on boring occasions of that sort-
Awaiting a killatatu or jammed into one,
One of the few perfect vices, without need for
Sophisticated devices or operational advice.
As in all things for which man has possession,
Killatatus are not endowed alike, and like their operators,
Owners and the souls for which they are meant to be products,
Variations there be for age, class and excess.
Thanks to a lack of creativity on the part of their regulators,
For the same price, one has at their disposal the entire
Killatatu food chain regardless of their worth.
There's those that exhibit airline envy - delivering road-rare,
Wowful, killatatu experiences (read that again, to believe.)
These kinds, not originally meant for the base of
Our food chain, mysteriously find their way onto
These mundane lanes, as potential results of foiled business
Or a system gone corrupt - coz, who'd really, sanely,
Order a golden fleece, for the haulage of us pathetic folk,
Without expecting to append even a decimal more,
In this world teeming with capitalist sharks and pranks?
Oh, and there's always losers still hanging at the party!
Yeah, the ones whose seats expose rods and ribs;
Who come heavily patched, and with wires touched to light;
Who are cast out of noble terminals like the Entebbe stage,
And left to lure and trap piteous travelers, to unfortunate
Suburbs like Natete, Nakawa or sickly places like Mulago.
Lo, every once in a while, you'll have to sit inside one, and
Unless you've attained aerial states of enlightenment
Like being able to detach yours care from the taxi fare,
You'll spend most of your journey sorrowfully attached to
Your predestined killatatu - counting every turn, bump and crump.
Okay, so once you've decided to advance your taste,
Wanting to control or chose where Providence's already
Decided - the same endeavor delineating mages from plebs,
How do you go about choosing and
Using or abusing a killatatu the right way?
You'll be amused or abused, but proceed something like this:
Consider the number plates! Always,
Consider what's getting onto your plate if you care for your palettes!
Inspect the casket apriori - it could be your last!
Fast, indulge your sense of fright, and assess
How far your liking lasts or lusts for the ride you're about to grab.
Refrain, even if it's in the middle of rain,
Should your instincts say otherwise about a killatatu.
Sometimes, this happens only after you've boarded one,
Damn! Ignore the awkward looks, and alight at once!
After all, if dying we must, why not take time choosing
The perfect axe?
Oh, recall; the conductor's row, spells omen.
If you can, take one of the last two rows.
Care to have a working window latch, or you and your
Journeys will never have a crush. Don't rush,
Yes, pedestrians love to rush, but you'll be seated in
No time, and all will swiftly pass you by.
Inspect the seats; that's the meat, especially if you care
Who you might meet.
There's a darling seat, in every killatatu,
Aptly named, the Anti-Pilot seat!
It's right there, at the right angle, directly opposite the pilot;
A best spot, if there's anything you'll want to plot while onboard.
You get perfect view of all within and without,
None observing you - school backbenchers anyone?
You have the freedom to operate the emergency exit,
Should you fancy it or yours existence need to persist.
And then, closely related to this seat is the Rear-Pilot seat!
On the last row, opposite the Anti-Pilot, with like roles.
Now, if grace should plant a THOT into either seat,
And you happen to be the bisector on that row,
Be damned if you don't break the law or dissolve the wall.
Otherwise, consider all other seats unfit, and take care to pick a
Seat on the rear, rare row, based on the shadow of your sundial.
Only then, shall you be an uber of the killatatu.
Windows! Oh, there's more about them!
Should you happen to sit anywhere in a killatatu,
You'll notice that there's basically two subspecies;
Only two kinds, of people seating at any window;
Claustrophobic souls, and Asphyxliacs;
Those that fantasize about open-roofed coffins,
And the ones that believe asphyxia begets sidhis!
Both could easily pass for seasoned psychopaths,
And be damned, if your appreciation of human diversity
Isn't advanced, by contemplating the actions and reactions
Of these aperture-bound souls, or if you dare displace one,
From their predestined place!
Now, there's many a reason you might get initiated too -
And it's better than not.
In a world where men, women and children walk about
With happy bowels - the ones occasionally augmenting
Atmospheric compositions with various occult gases;
The kind that mysteriously cause hysterical or maddening
Effects upon encounter; and then, there's those women,
Whose apparent beauty gets obscured, by poignant scents
And venomous concoctions sold in colored bottles all across our streets.
Luckily, for the killatatu, the souls who are hell-bent to sit
Ever at the window, posses all the power to not only
Compose, but also conduct it's gaseous chemistry,
And more often than not, this will be the reason why the
Initiated look upon any potential contenders with suspicion,
And why they'd rather loose time than save time losing
Their priesthood in the ritual of the moving casket.
And then, one day, dressed in your favorite whites,
You escape God's leaking roof, only to embark on
A journey inside of a dripping booth! You hate it,
But what do you do? Killatatus don't empty when it rains
And with everyone pretending to be cold, even proximity
Bares no gains. You could bargain, but no, it's rain
Not their pain, coz you'll have to pay or else remain!
You probably love to give that excuse - but it rained!
It's written as doctrine for the procrastinator, and allocated
Special, wholly days throughout the year, so you could
Enjoy it, when it comes.
Mmm, Okay, so choose to sit firm,
Accept to be a witness and make the most of it.
Beware, our roads harbor mysterious things on such days-
Rivers show up in the middle of the city
State secrets float about on the streets
You might behold more extremes of the female species-
It's cold, some have gotten wet, and those few,
Caught unaware, have little left of their true skill to conceal
I've both warned and empowered you!
So, step outa that crib, pick a killatatu to whisk you away
Despite the barking of demons, the crying of angels,
Billows of dark smoke and heavenly sparks that kill.
It's your moment to live, so don't cover your will.
Pay the bill, and accept the wet pills in yours killatatu;
Along the way, You might reminisce yours
Wet baptism squeals!
The men and women drafting general principles;
Those souls depriving hypotheses they derive, of sleep,
Need to step out of theirs fancy labs and come dwell
Among us - where the real laws of nature get tried,
Toasted and mostly detested by that mass of existence
In the idle, pacing, confused, somber and solid minds of
Mobs trapped inside of these killatatus!
Consider this; your typical killatatue traps no less than 14.
No less than 14 potential subjects, specimens or victims
Of one of many possible studies and or experiments one might devise.
Maybe someone needs inspiration? Well, here you have it;
Humans locked in a cage for no less than a couple hours,
With unconditional invasion of their private space,
All prolonged for as long as the subject is willing to pay.
Oh! You've heard about the plight of mesmerists!
Of highway hypnosis and the modern, universal, ubiquitous ad?
Okay, so likewise, consider the killatatu, a suggestion nirvana!
Forget not, the phenomena of randomized gaseuous invasions,
Of bizarre stimuli, unwelcome information overload like
News, music and mostly unpalatable commuter talk or communal phonecalls
Invading everyone's auditory privates for hours at worst.
And then, for generalist minds, ever lurking around limits,
Take joy in unraveling and codifying the
Extremes of the modern human condition like
Sitting impatiently, deep inside of immovable,
Insurmountable vehicular progressions, spuriously called
Traffic jams - nothing nutritive about them,
And neither is their jam victual - on which every man,
Woman and child of class or none, seated in a killatatu
Or any of those other metallic quadrupedes, must feed.