Tony Fouhse / Attracta Fahy

Beautiful One

For Ifeoma

I followed the line, red like an artery.

‘Nightmares are the worst,’ she said,

‘always a bat biting my neck, the lions’ roar,

and the guns.

Eight years old, I saw my whole family

shot. An old man took me in: ‘fourteen years

I had two babies.’

Nothing to give but my ear, boned bridge

between her world and mine. The sun shadowed

her face, dusk velvet skin, well of her eyes

sunk into ravines, as she spoke of her children:

‘They think I’m dead.’

‘I was taken under the premise of work,

ten years before I escaped, got myself here.’

She was the eye of the desert she’d crossed

to another bleak country, sharing a room

with four other women, cleaned houses for money.

‘I’m just a number,’ she said, ‘The Red Cross

cannot search, find them, until I have asylum.’

Four years.

Her voice like a violin in a distant room;

I stormed terrors by day, ran from them at night.

There’s a cathedral in everyone, our own religion.

The reason we become evil is no one will listen,

hold: a chalice, for the suffering of our wounds.

Dark continually folding over light, I climbed

walls, reached to ceilings, held candles, my heart

a stained glass window, host to love, and betrayal.

My altar the feet that brought me over sands,

fierce waves, the moon rising, pulling me on.

I am always running, even as I sit here,

close my eyes, see a young girl, braids in her hair,

crying for her dead mother, children not yet born.

A child chasing red sandy tracks, orange dust

at her heels.

I still smell the hunger, the lion’s famishment,

sun setting to the music of night time drums,

the sound of gunfire still rings through my body.

Hope kept me going, taking from each day

what dawn had to offer.

Attracta Fahy