Tanya Lyn Willard ~ The Free Sun

Sticks and Bones

My husband and my sons
sit around the fire
looking, hungry, at me.
They can cook for themselves
if they’re so strong.
But they saw her too.

Like all the other little girls
who went to school that morning,
chained tightly against each other
while men on horseback
sent them up as smoke
into the sky
my daughter called to her mother
as I roared from outside.

The tip of one
of her fingers.
remained whole,
unlike everything else
brought down to the bone.
Before her breasts
had time to grow.
Before she could have sons
or daughters of her own.

I am not
just one or two
clean breaks trying to mend,
I am shattered bone under skin:
one who won’t heal.

I didn’t know her body
could melt like that.

Then the men come for me
and honor does not permit
me to say what has happened
but my husband knows
and with my sons he leaves.

So the shame is
too hot for him?

I burn
these sticks now
as dark sets against day.
The smoke and dust
hold cold blue
inside them as
they pass through
the flames.

I scream
and tear my hand
from the fire.
I scream
and I want
to pull the fire
all over me.

No one will look at me.

Inside
where I burn
and I choke
alone,
inside,
I want to scrape
myself clean.

 

He Lets Me Pass

There is no distance
between dust
and faded blue sky.

First the sun pales
it in heat.
Then heat dries dirt and
dusts it higher than
the horizon is far.

I cover my skin in cloth
to hide from the sun.
Head to toe I’m covered and
still I burn.
Still my mouth dries.

The sun hung high has nothing
to run from,
escapes nothing.
Comes and goes
unlike my sweat
which has long run out.
Escaped from me,
like my strength,
and wont come back.

The footsteps beside me
are becoming silent in my ears
Where once I heard
the sinking sound of twelve
feet beside me, now I barely
hear two.
The others left like
my sweat and my strength.
Now all I hear is my breath.

Soon,
I don’t even hear that sound.
But I’m alive because
my feet are still sinking
with each step
in the sand.

She carries her baby beside me,
hides him
close to her breasts.
Her milk has left
like my sweat.

Still the sun sets
and we bathe in
the night air.
Soon
we will have survived.

I ran from Sudan,
going to Israel.
I met six others on the way
and we walked for days.
I don’t remember
when the others
died.

I wonder if they
were as thirsty as I am
when they sank their last steps
into the dry sand
under the free sun.

Soon.

Soon.

I’ll just listen
to my breath,
keep taking
one more step
under the sun
that doesn’t hide.
We reach the border.
And have to
sneak over.
A thin wire and
some sticks:
not even a gate.
I can see Israel,
a few steps away.

I step over
then I stop.
A rumbling sound
comes to a halt.
A man with a gun
in wet hands yells.
He stands
sweating in uniform.
He says “no.”

and I don’t understand.
I don’t have spit enough
to respond.
“Step back,” he says.
And I say “no.”

I walk to the wire.
“Step back!”

I hear two footsteps
beside me, running.
Boom
like a fire’s
quick roar.
A baby cries
from farther away.

I stick
one more step
in the sand.

Then he lets me pass
away from Egypt,
away from Israel,
and from Sudan.

I hear the sound
of one last
gunshot breath
and he lets me pass
away.

 

Tanya Lyn Willard has a Master’s Degree in creative writing prose from the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK). She has worked in Israel, Peru, and Papua New Guinea, and has been published in Danse Macabre, The UEA anthology (2009-2010) and multiple publications in The Peel Literary Arts Magazine.

Sticks and Bones & He Lets Me Pass
are from The Free Sun, a biographical sketch of a Sudanese woman.

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