The heat here melts the fat in your neck

into liquid necklaces. It’s a furnace of Elo –

the forgotten god of this land.


Here, children write their dreams in sweat:

the indelible ink of their brow. It’s the only way

a father’s bullet scar can mean something.


Here, a book is a full plate to a starving mind.

And eyes are spoons. Every sentence is a road

leading home. And all brackets look

like a parent’s open hug.


Here, hills speak in silent tones,

as trees eavesdrop in defiance.

Trees – lalop and ardhef – are stubborn children;

accustomed to the indifferent beatings of the sun.


Here, if you were to study an old tree,

you would imagine its branches when it was young,

green and naive to the civilized ways of shemish (the sun).


You would imagine this tree as a virgin; before bees

deflowered her and sold her innocence

to the birds and the dry gush of wind.


You would imagine its naked branches

resignedly spread, frozen in time

like the arms of

a one-legged Odissi Indian dancer.


You would imagine the life it breastfeeds

to the starved beaks of the rocks

sprouting across these Nuba hills.


And then, beneath its shadow,

there’s a quick-sand footpath

that leads to small tombs of children

strutting around the dust

in missing arms.


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