The Soldier’s Dream

France promises to increase military assistance to Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger as they join forces to battle Boko Haram and the extremists’ campaign across the region’s borders.
—reported in “‘Seven-year-old girl’ kills herself and five others in Nigeria suicide bombing,”  The Guardian, February 22, 2015  
The child has one body and five bodies it holds: the body of eyes, the body of ears, the scent body, the body of tongues, the tactile body of singed hairs. Seedless, the one body is stiff and shrouded in white netting.
The child has one body and five black stones, tiny fists with gold wrists pinned over her heart. The child has one body and five small bags of salt pinned to the band round her waist, five glass rattles braided into her hair. The coarse blue salt and jet charms offer protection. The rattles ward off trouble. She stares behind me into the future. She hovers in the air. Around her, the gilded pages of a book rise and fall amid mottled feathers, dirt, and dry leaves. The dirt colors everything red.

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for Michael Brown (1996–2014)

Officer, for hours I lay there.
The sun at my back.
My blood running a country

mile between the pavement
and the crown of my head.
No ambulance ever came.

It took a long time to cover my body.
There are politics to death
and here politics performs

its own autopsies. My aunties
say things like, Boy big and black as you.
Then, the prosecution rests.

My neighbors never do. They lose
sleep as the National Guard parades
down Canfield. I heard my blood

was barely dry. I heard there were soldiers
beating their shields like war cries,
my boys holding hands to hold on

through your tear gas. Heard my mother
wandered the streets,
her body trembling

between a sign of a cross
and a fist. I heard a rumor
about riots got started.

Officer, I heard that after so much blood,
the ground develops
a taste for it.