By Katherine Nehring - Peace Corps Volunteer, Benin (2004-2007)
The winds come rolling from the empty north,
The fires crackles on the parching hill,
Flushed out, the long grass creatures scurry forth
And men and children gather for the kill.
Dust in the air, dust in the mouth and eyes,
Dust muting out the stars to pale dots.
I have not died and so I cannot rise,
But live half-buried, breathing earth in clots.
How can I slake the thirst of this cold sky,
That draws life out of land and flesh and breath,
In this dark season as it passes by,
That is to desert as is sleep to death?
Too long it stays, too soon it will be gone,
The year's red dearth, my own heart's harmattan.
This poem was selected as a finalist in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.