The phone rings,
you’re there, all sun, war and heat.
You’ve decided to drive
over the Ugandan border,
the jeep all rigged—
it’s a done deal,
but I beg anyway.
Nairobi’s slums burned,
ports closed, no gasoline,
so you fill up with what you can get,
strap the jeep with tools and jerrycans.
In the morning
our daughter hovers at my bedroom door
lunar and rumpled,
she must have overheard me on the phone
Silently she assumes her throne
over the heater,
plots her revolution,
the warm air puffing her white nightgown
like a Queen Toad.
She reading me, reading her.
When her brother Will
tries to share her space
she jabs him hard in the ribs,
anger spilling red down her face and chest.
And it happens again,
whereby war, however diluted, however transformed,
however many times removed, has spread,
whereby the suffering of Kenya begets Uganda,
begets my husband,
begets me, begets Ana, begets her brother…
Later in the mudroom, getting ready for school
I see Will kick our tiny old mutt.
Perhaps it will end here, with this dog
who pees all over the house,
sleeping on the couch all day long,
cataracts like clouded moons,
for now, noble keeper of the passing flame.
The school bus arrives,
my children chatter,
emptied of their small wars
they skip lightly toward its open door,
the dog limping eagerly behind.
Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.