MALI

2000

The boy in the heat
Swatted our flies, shoved away the other boys,
We were his charge.
When they begged he yelled,
Threw rocks,
Took us down alleys between rows of mud huts on stilts.
He took our wave of the hand as a benediction,
He could not be waved away.
We had not sought his help, his protection, yet
He selected us because – why?
Were we so vulnerable, so gullible, so foreign?
He pointed us to shops we did not enter,
Down streets we feared to walk.
He spoke to us in a tongue we could not decipher.
We replied in French to no avail.
To the side, Taureg men in blue robes looked past us.
When we raised a camera, all in front of us held out their hands.
Returning to the bus, the boy pressing close
Hands cupped in front of him:
Payment for service?
We had contracted for none.
We stared ahead, avoided eyes and cries for recompense.
Seated inside, awaiting others,
He banged and punched the side of the bus,
Loud deep metallic echoes filled our space
And we stared ahead and then
As he lept to beat on our window
I turned in anger, glared through the glass
And cursed in a tongue he did not understand with words he could not hear,
Until our driver stepped outside and chased him with his boot,
Screaming child, bloodied, how old,
Eight I guess,
Running with no shoes.

2012

Across the Sehel
Cursing in Arabic
The Army of France
Egalite
Shooting anyone who moved.
Plastic bags snarled in the brush
Filled like balloons with the hot dry wind,
Masking, in this land of masks,
The man with the gun
Screaming in rage,
Shaking a fist,
Firing his rifle at the heads of the soldiers,
Seeking recompense for years unfulfilled,
Demanding a reason.
Spitting blood on the sand
Falls the young man
Falling falling dying,
Dying with no shoes.

2018

Appartements meuble a Bamako
In high demand, I am told, by
My computer who would not lie to me.
Risk free, no credit card to reserve, lock in great prices,
Sleeps six for 219 USD.
For the week.
In Manandoroni, not too far from the Niger
Near to Diatoula, and
Replete with flat screen television
For the discriminating tourist
Who might prefer not to venture out too often
Here in the land of no shoes.

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