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.