Kenya Tea
Danesh Bharucha

Teatime in Nairobi and we had marble cake.
"It's MOST fresh", promised the quaint Parsee ladies who ran
the shop.
Shyly smiling, they beamed hopefully at us
From beneath a veil of rouge and white face-powder.
Teeth disarranged with the years, two cake-baking sisters,
Pickled in old cologne and proud of their wares.

Dusty and dark, the teashop should have smelled of vanilla
And half-baked eggs, not mildew and kerosene.
Outside, children with pus in their eyes begged
half-heartedly,
Their hands cupped without conviction.
And under the mauve canopy of the twin jacarandas,
Bollywood faces grinned up from year-old magazines
Sold on the stone-slabbed pavement.