Because desperate men fight always to control something—
this time it is ma’a, the water as it disappears—
this girl will fight through leech-filled swamps,
forge the vast White Nile,
watch sisters go down in crocodile jaws.
She will survive on rainwater,
green flesh of shea nut,
salty porridge of tree leaves,
while skin swells with ticks and
shreds in Kono thickets.
This girl will reach the refugee camp on petrified feet,
find neither food, nor water.
She will stay, fight a kind of death
behind the camp’s truck barriers,
wrestled down, voice smothered in tall grasses
by three militiamen.
She will not sleep,
must listen, listen for sounds of
helicopters, MiG’s, and approaching janjaweed.
Under a Sahara-stained tent,
this lost girl will fight to remember
the scent of qahwa,
the vision of a mother’s desert-dry hands,
dusted in grindings of clove and fried coffee beans,
offering her family their daily drink
in tiny clay cups.
Tara L. Masih is the editor of a new anthology The Chalk Circe: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays. Read about the anthology here in Writing from the Margins.