Three circles of safety

In southern Afghanistan, if you look for it,
you can find three circles of safety –
the walled gardens of local homes
the cleared areas of villages where the Taliban are excluded,
and the military hospital.

The NATO military cordon of edgy soldiers
patrols the water channels,
encircles a group of villages, some cultivation,
the beaten track is free of mines
and every donkey is not automatically a bomb suspect.

The military cordon allows security
for a season cycle of crop and harvest,
where reconstruction is more than theoretical
and hearts and minds are won and lost
in the uncertainties of night letters,
scrawled warnings against consorting with the West
posted in darkness on compound gates and walls by
silent visitors.

The reinforced perimeter wire
secures the hospital,
and access gates are watched by soldiers
with faces muffled against the desert wind and running sand.

In hospital beds, with sheets and blankets of medical blue,
a fighter in civilian clothes of indeterminate allegiance,
NATO soldiers with shrapnel wounds
and a local child encased in splints and plaster,
share a respite from the war.

The compound wall of rough, sun-baked clay
holds a garden, a tiny, reedy soak
shaded and protected from the abrading sand
and wind so hot it burns the throat
and stops the breath.

This enclave nurtures pomegranates and a family of doves
where tea and nuts and figs and sweet raisins are served
under the arching pergola of grapevine
and soft conversation.

Sandra Renew
in response to: Tim Horton’s III

© Sandra Renew 2014, all rights reserved.

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