A Wartime Elegy
When the sun steams through the dust,
the hiss of morning unfurls the red clay
city of Agadez, alight in gold-hewn streets.
The wooden arms of the mosque glow
against the mud in a half-hazed luminosity
shadowing the low thatched huts behind.
You can hear the wild dogs roving like wind,
waking and taking to the streets.
Imagine, it is not only us
quietly morphing between life
and afterlife and sweet life again
in the soft hours of dusk
beneath the bluish orange of sand
smoldering the sun's descent
dancing and dancing in the sky.
There is a road they call the Yellowcake Road
which carries the trucks from Arlit's mine.
They shiver and shudder and groan along
the way to Cotonou.
The yellowcake blocks will bounce and grumble,
they say yellowcake packing will come asunder,
they say the sun glows like a yellow river
when you follow the Yellowcake Road.
There are ways to think of a body going.
There are bullet holes and infection's hold.
Amputation and unraveling. Lungs filled
with water where there once was air.
The wet parts leaking out of orifices.
The shadows of low-lit men
cast on desert walls. Sleepless hours
before the husky song from the minaret.
Have you heard of the tree of Ténéré?
In the whole sea of sand, in the roll
of the dunes, in the pitch of the mountains
there was only one. It stood like an elder,
crooked and sun-scarred, arms like a scarecrow's
raised to the sky. Then one night comes a man
who's drunken and blind, or it could be fatigue,
or the curse of desert. He drives through the wasteland
of sand and mirages and into the tree of Ténéré.
The hum and the rhythm of the place have changed.
No one believes that sand stands still, and still
we wail and undo the moon. We watch and wail
as the walls come down, as dark shadows flit
across the murky horizon of a nameless war.
The morning sun licks up the dusty night
and ancient rock walls depict what we knew.
We see fading images broken in flight.