Inauguration poem from Kenya

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LISA MULLINS: Kenya plans to send a delegation of government ministers to Washington tomorrow. They're not going to be at the inauguration of Barack Obama ? only the ambassadors of foreign countries get official invites. But they will attend a celebration party. One side of President-Elect Obama's family comes from Kenya, and the ministerial trip is attracting criticism back at home. One politician says it's a waste of taxpayers' money. Most Kenyans ? in fact, most everybody ? cannot attend this inauguration, but there is always radio and of course, TV, and the imagination. Here's the third in our series of inaugural poems from around the world.

PETER KIMANI: My name is Peter Kimani. I am a poet from Kenya, the country that Obama traces his roots. What your listeners need to know is that corn is a Kenyan staple made from maze meal, Gege is a type of fish, Gueno is chicken; and Namuele is the new name for Lake Victoria. The poem is called ?Freeing the Spirits?. ?If I knew I would live to tell the story, I would have brought you platefuls of corn and Gege, fresh from the waters of Namuele and counseled the wisdom of washing your hands with spittle while living by the lakeside. I hear the lake now bears the name of a fallen Queen, and you're the King of a faraway land, eating with forks and knives. But don't touch corn and Gege because somebody warns against tropical diseases. If I would have lived to tell this story, I would smeared your face with shea butter and hung cowry shells on your long neck to kill off evil spirits. I know you're a free spirit ruling the free world, free in the spirit of your ancestors in Namuele and though the oceans of the clothed shackled, I shall eat corn and Gueno to celebrate, but I'm sad to eat without you.?

MULLINS: That's ?Freeing the Sprits? by the Kenyan poet Peter Kimani. You can hear and read other inaugural poems from Germany and Hungary online, at theworld.org