Lauri Conner

Blue Sapphires and Land Mines

he says the stones are most abundant

in places where the skulls are sweet-smelling

the soil farmed around the graves, perfumed

with mango, banana, and palm.  in other places

he is too afraid to break up the hard packed

earth, troubled by the lack of bone.  he can’t

recognize dusty slope from dusty slope; can’t

recall how many steps between each mine

just that he laid them.  he doesn’t remember

anything more than the sixty cents each petite

stone will bring him.  a calculation, he says,

that puts food on the table.  he shows no sign

of shame, no clusters of guilt locked on decayed uniform.


his soft voice shoots soot. declares he saved many

lives in his village.  it could have been more. 

it could have been more, he says, his palms scrimshawed

with blood where life lines used to run.  this tiller

of soil says he knows nothing.  says he knows

nothing more than the rifle he uses to poke the ground,

the bamboo riddle he uses to flesh out the gems.

he tells me a leg he could lose, an arm he could do without.

and depending on who you ask, it is true. depending

on who you ask, he knows nothing about fear.