In Our Lifetime
Flushed by the rose of flesh
Pierced by barbed wire, a wound that will not heal.
The iron of attachment cuts
What we take for ourselves, ways of living
That will not last for very long, untenable, yes.
A boy moves on the plain, his goats beside him.
Trying to find his way through clouds of dust --
Haskanita, where children rushed by men
On horseback discover the guns’ temerity,
Where stars startle themselves in broken water
And the boy with his goats, trying to turn home
Remembers what his father never told him –
Open your legs wide, run
Not those staggering towards slaughter.
Green Leaves of El Fasher
Everything that’s real turns to sun:
Stones, trees, the jeeps they came in, those men,
In Jebel Marra, the leaves are very green,
Here, in El Fasher too.
I am singing, stones fill with music.
Do not touch my hair, I cried. They forced me
To uncover my head then beat me when my veil slipped,
Not the pink one I am wearing now, with stripes – this
My aunt gave me. I am not an animal,
They are more free, birds in the tree, horses too.
I am your language, do not cover me.
I am burning in what you take to be the present tense.
We are the letters alif, ba, taa, mim –
What the sun makes as it spins a nest of fire.
In another country, in a tent under a tree,
A child sets paper to rock,
Picks up a crayon, draws a woman with a scarlet face,
Arms outstretched, body flung into blue.
(Hashsha – to beat down leaves from a tree.)
The child draws an armored vehicle, guns sticking out
Purple flames, orange and yellow jabbing,
A bounty of crayons, a hut burst into glory.
(Yatima – to be an orphan, the verb intransitive.)
The child draws what’s near at hand and common,
Not what’s far away – not the ghost house
In Khartoum where a father lies
Whose hands and ears are torn.
(Idhash-shamsu kuwwirat – so the sun is overthrown.)