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Poem: How to Fetch Firewood 

For the women and children of Darfur

The first thing you should do, Abidseun, is to coat yourself with dust. Don’t forget that patch on your elbow, that strip of skin behind your ears. You see, here, darkness feeds on dark.

When you walk, Abidseun, walk like you’ve been taught—straight and slick. Don’t count clouds. Don’t kick stones. You should know better than to chase a little bug.

There isn’t much wood left to pick, I know. It takes so long for seed to become fire, and here, you see, there is no water to spill on the dry. So we look, Abidseun, because it is better than asking.

And if in looking you find a stick in someone else’s hands, if in running you stumble on a stone, if in calling the answer stays stubborn and far, then that is the time to stare at the sky, Abidseun. Burning can wait.

As for me, from the moment your small light steps away to the moment you return (on your feet? on their backs?), I will be here, Abidseun, crouched against no one’s soil, breath sharp as memory, praying for history to forget itself.

  • For the women and children of Darfur

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