The UNHCR Somali driver speeds by a small herd
of white cattle prodded along by a desert farmer.
rust-colored dust in its wake clouds barbed-
wire suburbs of white tents and makeshift shelters
of twigs and branches overtaking the plateau faster
than malarial flies. I have come to Dadaab like an actor
on a press junket, unprepared for the drained faces
of famine-fleeing refugees, my craft’s glamor
dimmed by hundreds of infant graves, children
whose lolling heads’ final drop landed on their mothers’
backs like soft stones. What beauty can I spell in
this swelter of dust? Ridged like that farmer’s
goats, the ribs of others protrude and make a mockery
of my words. Where is my empathy? The drought
is in my heart as well as on their skin. Yesterday, I walked
the Maasai Mara and saw how nature bears out
its designs: hyenas drew near for the attack; seconds
later, the sound of crushing bones racked my ears;
a battalion of lions gorged on a half-eaten gazelle.
Two nonchalant giraffes glided by like war profiteers.