John Warner Smith

Sands of Somalia

For months in Baidoa 
the heavens were shut. No crops. 
No water from the flinty rock.
Only war and death.
Soldiers sold off our corn rations,
while our babies became skin and bone.
Forty nights we crossed the desert.
Our feet blistered,
so we made the daylight sand our bed.

One morning while we slept,
rebels ambushed. They beat me
and took the last of our food.
We thought of going back
but we had to press on.
Then, late one night a week ago,
I watched my daughter die.
We buried her in the sand
with our hands, with only our prayers
to mark her grave.  
The moon, big as the sun,
made the white sands sparkle
so brightly I felt
we walked inside the stars,
but with Nadifa gone, 
everything shining 
drowned in our tears.

Here at the camp we must wait.
Too many need help.
My wife is going mad now,
and our youngest is very sick.
He breathes from his belly—
no sound, not even a cry, only air.
Look.  His skull sinks in.
See. Put your hand here.
Feel the hole.