Three Poems by Mugabi Byenkya



we’d been drinking

wind whipped up an icy frenzy around us
white icy sleet sheets sliced micro-tears in our unexposed skin
visibility was near zero
all I could see was your girthy billowing dark frame
amidst an off-white seething haze

we stumbled forward
my size ten boots
awkwardly landing into your size twelve boot-prints

trudging onwards through the blizzard
we approached closer and closer to home

the combination of:
– alcohol in my arteries
– adolescent angst
– and the assaulting air

uncorked the inhibitions off my repressed anger

“Where were you, when I needed you?”


She was always the tomboy
But what comes with the territory
doesn’t always come with joy

Raised by her Father
as the Boy he wanted
Who never realized
the extent this would damage

Older Brothers perpetuated Father’s wishes
Always one of the guys
she responds with –
to kisses

But that didn’t matter




the myth of cooties
Was lifted, do you see?

So she,
hung out with her group of guys
Always one of the guys
Never realized
the key difference

Times change
people change
people grow ambivalent

But she didn’t see it coming

Hormones started raging
boys started cuming

Realized the girl in their midst
was more than a friend
She was

all their lustful


In the flesh


To grope breasts


To mesh

With another human being


For meaning-
less physical pleasure

No justification here for violent measures
So they all came
to play a ‘game’

Quotation marks
harken the presence
Of ulterior motives,
as the moon slivers into a crescent

The game was 5 against 1

I cried the first time
I lied when I tried

Is there something wrong with me?

Is this what it’s supposed to be?


“So, like when was the first time you did it?”
“Haha, well, you know, there was this cute guy at the club”
“And, um”

what I’m about to say next is an utter fallacy
For you see
My lips lie
As my soul cries

Woke up the next morning in his bed

Mugabi Byenkya was born in Nigeria to Ugandan/Rwandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. He spent his life across Africa, Asia and North America. Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015, has been featured on Brittle Paper, The Good Men Project, African Writer, Arts and Africa and The Kalahari Review amongst others. His writing is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. His debut novel, ‘Dear Philomena,’ was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 30 city North America/East Africa tour in support of this. An advocate for the intersection of arts, chronic illness and social justice, and literacy, Mugabi leads workshops in effective writing, poetry, performance, vulnerability, mental illness and chronic illness for youth and adults.