The Volunteer kneels on the hot sand
and feels for the pulse of a fallen man.
A wind gust carries the stench of dead
fish and flesh from the river.
He sponges blood from a deep gash
beneath the man’s gray hair.
A tall, lanky man black hair tangled
with strands snaking from his skull,
his eyes deep cavities, a ragged shirt
hanging from his washboard torso
raises a machete and advances,
his companions urging him on.
The Volunteer cradles the fallen man
and stares as thick crimson oozes
down his charcoal face like lava trails.
The eyes glaze slowly and close,
and he squeezes the Volunteer’s hand.
The grip loosens the arms fall limp.
Peering far beyond the shriveled river,
across the parched savanna into a land
of mirages, the Volunteer barely hears
the Machete Man: “Do not interfere,
Batuuree. This is not your business.”
From spectators nearby only vacant stares.
Machete Man leaps and twirls in dance,
and the mob breaks out in frenzied cheers
when he slashes his weapon in the air,
the sun flashing off steel. He points
the tip of the blade straight ahead and says,
“You wish to join your brother?”
A car engine shifts gears, observers scurry
into stores, a highlife record blares
from across the street and vultures hover
above the dusty river bank, waiting,
while cattle with skin stretched tightly
over their bones, drink in slow motion.
The Sahara sandblasts the Volunteer’s face,
but he blocks the wind from the fallen man.
The Machete Man gathers his group together
and leads them down the road.The faint call
of a muezzin is carried away on the hot breeze.
The world pauses for a moment of silence.