Matatu Mzungu (White Man on a Mini-Bus) p.2 (of 2)

Ron Singer


Of course, there are also compensations.
One matutu was blessedly quiet.
(“Sound system bust,” apologized the driver.)
That day, I enjoyed a conversation
with a fellow passenger. Middle-aged,
he sported a three-piece suit, red Kangol cap,
mirror-shined shoes, and fat yellow ascot.

Although he looked like a small-time tycoon,
he turned out to be a hospital clerk
on the way home from visiting a friend.
What did we talk about? Politics, drought
(which made me eat dust, while others starved).
This friendly man offered, “Let’s meet for a drink.”
Just a gesture, though. The drink was never drunk.


Once, good luck gave me the passenger seat.
Squeezed next to a matron of my own,
for a while we breezed along, heavenly.
But then came the mother of traffic jams.
Bless our crazy matatu driver, who
managed to circumvent a massive snarl
of motorcycles, cars, matutus, trucks.
He made his way around them by bumping
into a ditch, then hopping like a huge,
ungainly steel grasshopper through a field,
and back onto the tarmac, traffic-free.
The matatu made alarming noises,
but it limped along to my transfer point.
Minutes later, matatu mutandis! Home!

This poem and its first part are adapted from an essay in New Maps, 2012. It has also been previously published in The Road Not Taken, 2015. Read part one of Mzungu Matatu here.

Nairobi is the crowded, fast-growing capital of Kenya. Its notorious minibus-taxis, the matatus are lively, overloaded and driven with dangerous abandon.

Other poems about Kenya on Poetry Atlas.

Main Location:

Nairobi, Kenya

Matatus in Nairobi Rush Hour Traffic