Shane Book

The One

The enormous head and huge

bulbed knees, elongated

hands and feet, don’t fit

with the filed down chest, limbs

of kindling, yet this is one

whole boy, suspended

in a cloth harness hooked

to what looks like a clock

stuck at three fifteen.

Closer, you can see it is

not a clock but a scale,

the kind you find in any North

American grocery,

but of course this is not

North America, this is

the Sahel famine, this

is Mali in 1985, where a boy

waiting for his rations

to be adjusted

must be weighed. At once

his face relays one and many

things: he could be crying out,

he could be grinning,

he could be frightened

or tired, he could believe

he is suspended in unending

dream. What starvation started

gravity refines as the boy

reclines, the hunger having

collapsed his neck, his face

staring up at the ceiling

of sticks which like most ceilings


anywhere in this world is blank.



“The One” was first published in Witness, Issue 18, #1.