Shara Lessley

Shara Lessley

In Jordan’s Nothernmost Province

For the Middle East’s first all-female de-mining crew

Women go down on their knees
hovering above a map-work of metalwork, brushing
dust from cluster bombs like ash from flatbread.
Delicate metal-filled bomblets glisten, scaring off
the crows. In fields where men once braided their hair,
a wife trades her niqab for goggles
and armor, sifting the topmost soil
from behind her rake. She knows the mines
never sleep. She knows better to fear
the snakes, scorpions, heat,
her brother’s pasture where running
water dislocates the dragon’s teeth, toylike
mines disguising themselves as butterflies
and yams. Shepherds herd their sheep
in restricted fields, their daughters more afraid
of sniffing dogs than the cross-shaped pressure
plates lying in wait. Today begins
where yesterday ends: brushes, detectors,
mallets, and stakes prodding twenty square meters
grain by grain, searching for wires
attached at the pull switch. And the ragged
finch perched on the fencepost,
does it prophesy something
among the fruit trees—a thimble-
sized device, perhaps, its firing pin needling
a young boy’s eyes? Who knows what
the ordinary arbor holds. Hundreds of
underground cages ready to unloose the clay-
more birds in air, their blackened gullets canting
for the boy’s mother, now downed
among the silent grasses, as if unclasping a barb
from her stocking, or bending to sweep back
the wild herbs clutched at her jilbab’s hem.

SHARA LESSLEY is the author of The Explosive Expert’s Wife (Winner, Sheila Margaret Motton Prize for Best Collection), Two-Headed Nightingale and co-editor ofThe Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, her awards include an NEA fellowship and the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship. Assistant Poetry Editor for Acre Books, she currently lives in Dubai.

Shara Lessley ‘In Jordan’s Northernmost Province’ from The Explosive Expert’s Wife. Copyright © 2018 by Shara Lessley. Used with kind permission of The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.