|Apr/May 2006 Poetry Special Feature|
DARFUR, Sudan—She dared the desert heat,
marauding soldiers, and gangs of rapists
to reach the camp someone told her
would provide food, milk, shelter, and water.
On the fourth day, she walks through the gate,
an amulet around her neck she hoped
would make the milk flow again from
her shrunken breasts, her baby wrapped
in the blanket of vertical black, white, yellow,
and green stripes her neighbor gave her
when her son was born. The physician and nurse
work as gently as possible to pry her hands off her baby—
already they see he will not last the night.
The donkeys are dying at the same rate as the babies—
when the mothers cry out at night as their infants
take their last breaths, the donkeys in the camp
begin their braying. In the morning, she walks with
the other refugee mothers onto the barren land
outside the camp to bury her son, still wrapped
in his colorful birth blanket, passing the workers
digging graves for the donkeys
that died in the night.