Shadow Puppets

Heat. Dusty, big-leaved trees, 
The sky crimson and combustible as dragons.

Life here has parched hard, 
Like the acacia's thorns.
Old laws are recalled
In the thunder's martial grumble,
In the wind's wrenching sobbing. 

For us who shelter in the asylum of evening,
Fear inhabits all geography,
Is murky as the rivers that work us down their throats.

My neighbours keep their lights burning,
Their voices loud against the thumping silence,

Until out of a heart-stealing darkness
Come the words of God to scold us,
The imam reciting prayers.

Afterwards, we are small, lost men in skull caps,
Alone in late evening.

Stars stare from the black sacking of the sky's clothes,
At a halved moon rising, scarved, in purdah.

Now we are the shadows' puppets,
Strung for dying

The long spatulate fingers of time
Close around us.

Robert James Berry