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Wednesday, August 10, 2011


by Bill Sullivan 

In the Horn of Africa there is drought, dust
and death.  There, mothers watch and wail
as their famished children drop-one- by- one-
onto the barren land.  The death march
begins in Southern Somalia where merciless
militants hoard food and water, separate fathers
and young boys from their families, drag them
into the demonic ranks of al-Shabab.

The women gather the remaining children,
pack what little food, water money, clothes
they have, and begin their terrible trek.
If they manage to elude the patrols and bandits,
they face a journey of hundreds of miles
without sufficient supplies or shelter.
Just days out the children begin to drop.
Malnourished before the march, they quickly
lose strength, as limbs become dry twigs
and bellies bloat.  Mothers whisper, “Don’t
stop breathing, don’t stop breathing,” but death
claims the infants and the young.  Mothers
keen, kiss and caress what they have lost.
They turn to the children that still breathe,
lay the lost ones down, cover them with cloth
and desert sand, say a prayer, then clutch the hands
of the children who still stand.  They turn their
eyes toward Mogadishu and Dadaab , Kenya .
They will walk as long and as far as they can.

Bill Sullivan taught English and American studies at Keene State College, NH. He has published his poems in print and in online journals.  Most recently  included his short story "The Third Shift." Retired, Sullivan now resides in Westerly, RI.