“I do not see the need to burn the houses of those slaughtered;
everything has already been taken,” I say over strong tea and thick porridge.
My colleague says I will not make a good bandit, that I do not understand the effectiveness
of hideous acts to achieve future obedience. And I wish that were true.
In this dust and smoked-filled harmattan night, with a moon blood orange and near full,
my breath is shallow. I cannot avoid the greedy sucking of shisha by expats—
some false sophistication of those closer to death by lungs marked and rotting,
like my grandfather’s at the sallow, emaciated end, despite decades free from the habit.
Before me, one man swims laps methodically. Up and down the middle of the pool.
Hardly a ripple. His broad back barely rising to allow his mouth to draw in air.
His arms deep beneath him to glide scarcely seen. The thick water calls me, to dive, to crawl,
to sink into oxygen free of carbon, to savor moments free of fumes and dust and pain.
In Guam, invasive tree snakes invent a new way to slither.
Good news for their survival;
bad for nesting starlings.
In Washington, men with furs and Molotovs storm the Capitol.
Coddlers and goaders slowly renounce them,
try to make themselves palatable in the new light.
In my garden, overrun with green,
a juvenile stag, nubs where horns will be,
curls himself to sleep. Back so thin I count each vertebrae.
They become a rosary. Hail Marys replaced with silent thanks
as I breathe with this deer, safe here and now from wildcats,
as the hummingbird circles for sage.
Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared or will appear in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The MacGuffin, Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and SWWIM. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman Magazine Flash Fiction winner and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.