27 April 2015


“Never date a poet Dee” he said amidst bites of some chicken barbecue flavored crisps I had shared with him (I have special attachment to this flavour). We were waiting for a mutual friend at a bus stage. I was to give her a novel in exchange for another; they were headed for a date. I assumed I had not heard him.
“Dee”, he paused to make sure I was listening to him, “never date a poet”. He repeated. I didn’t know how to take it. I mean; did he know that I subscribed to the religion that is poetry? That once in a while, I became a Levite and would step up to the altar with incense and offer a sacrifice of literary works written in verse, in particular verse writing of high worth, great beauty, emotional sincerity, intensity and profound insight (Isn’t that what poetry is?); and at times words with rhythmic grace and imaginative proses?  Did he? Did he know that the mutual friend we shared sat in the council of elders in this so called religion? Did he know that I frequented the likes of Fatuma's Voice, Upgrade Poetry, Slam Africa and Poetry Spot among other poetry forums?  Maybe. Maybe not.

Poets are a heartless lot. He said. Make a blunder and you will testify to this with a bible on your right hand. Make them doubt what you have and they will never make you forget. They will write pieces about you. They will paint their words with the pain, in a way that you will hear and read the words and know they were directed to you. Poets will stab your soul while reciting a love poem to you. They will hurl your heart into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters, and hug you like nothing happened.

Photo Credit: www.cdfstlucia.org
 They will stitch together parts of their verses with blood from the heart of a love that you once shared; and do it wearing a smile. They will make you think twice about anything you ever did without even saying it. They will perform these pieces to audiences that you are part of; people will praise their prowess with words. They will make you sit through the agony of listening to words that you once said; only this time they will sound so different because they are meant to crucify you. They will make you wonder out loud “was that about us?” and instinctively they will say “that was not about us by the way”. And you will know it was.

Photo Credit: www.p4cm.com

They will make you regret ever meeting them; ever falling in love with their hearts and souls. They will speak in parables that mock you and your mere existence. They will make you be cautious about love at first sight; you will always want to have a second and third look. They will make you read through their pieces first before they show them to the world. As if to make sure that the impressions of the words are engraved in your mind. And every time they are up there performing the piece, the words will hurt you one more time. And you will have to smile; because you are dating a poet.

Unless you are a poet as well. He added. Then you will be able to read between the sweet words and see the emptiness they carry. You will be able to see through the irony of the praises in proses. You will understand the meaning of the adjectives they use. You will see that one black sheep in the white sheep lines of a romantic poem. That masked truth that was not supposed to be there. That line that makes the whole piece a lie. And you will smile about it and say “great piece”. You will know the depth of the sting in that offensive line; because you would write the same to them.
Photo Credit: www.p4cm.com
He didn’t say more; he didn’t have to. The expression on his face, the way his face distorted with a foreign emotion as he talked; the emptiness in his eyes and the smile he gave her when she arrived said it all.

“Never Dee,” he said as he hugged her. 
“Not all” I whispered back.

Facebook:  Njeri Kareithi
Twitter: @deekareithi


  1. Replies
    1. It's what most people think dating a poet is love...what I believe is captured in the last statement...."Not all". ;-)

  2. Great piece. Guess I will learn to be a poet

    1. Thanks Caroline...Poets are a lovely lot :-).