Nomadic Life

Common understandings are not always verbal.

By Susan Rich - Peace Corps Volunteer, Niger (1984-1986)

When I come back with the cups of tea
the sugar bowl has been emptied,
my imported M&Ms—
gone. Flies stretch their legs
search, then spiral
in a dust storm of light.
Aisha sits solemn in afternoon heat
examines the inside of ice cubes
questions what makes water
strong or weak.
We invent common words between us,
point at the refrigerator door,
the photograph of ferns rising out of snow
the last volunteer left behind.
I'd like to trade with her
my typewriter keys
for the way she navigates the desert,
reads the coordinates of sand.
I want to know as Aisha knows
when it's time to follow
the ambivalent line of landscape
keep faith in dunes that disappear.
By evening when she tastes
my color-coated chocolates
shares them with her friends
we both will recall the nomad
the other woman
we each might have been. 

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