I Don’t Know Anything About Suffering

By Aaron Brown

As in losing three children to a sickness you can’t even name,
            as in losing your baby boy
                                                            five days after birth 

while you rode a market truck coming home to see him,
            as in saying that a dead child has

rather than died
                        (as if that could make it all easier) 

as in riding the back of a motorbike and hitting an acacia tree,
            the chain or the wheel snapping your femur, 

as in waking every morning to the sound of your children dying

                        (from whooping cough)

as in walking the fields at noon to glean a bowlful of grain –

                                                how painful when your husband

never returned from the war and the journey he made
            across the desert to find a job in Geneina, 

to marry the second wife
                                                so much younger, 

she didn’t bear a stillborn three years in like you –
            as if you weren’t trying, as if you didn’t want to please him 

as if every dead and dying thing was
                                                                        under your control

and you could make the clouds drop rain and breathe life

                         into a brittle carcass by the roadside, 

as if you could even begin to think with a mind that for once
            wasn’t parched as in the road you walk to your field 

every morning, several kilometers away,
                                                                        joining with the others

 who bear the same blows, have the same cracks, who sweep
            the endless horizon with their eyes and reach 

                        their jagged arms 

to the single cloud that won’t let go, won’t seal up earth’s scars,

                                                            though everyone asks it why.

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