by Paul Hooker
Laetoli, Tanzania, 3.7 million years ago
The Syrian-Lebanese border, summer 2015
Fleeing for her life: the mountain
vomits fire and smoke,
cloud of ash become an angry rain
burning mud beneath her feet.
They say she turned, perhaps to take
a longing homeward look, catch
a choking, wheezing breath, seek
the child devoured and gone in acrid fog,
then walked on, uncomprehending.
Captured in the mire,
her steps beat out grief’s millions-year-old rhythm,
eternal footprints graved in primal rock
beneath the falling skies of Olduvai.
Fleeing for her life: rapine fingers
clawing at the dark, lusting for
her daughters’ clothes and flesh; do not look back,
do not cling to what is torn away.
They say she turned, perhaps to glimpse
the strong door that once held at bay
an angry world now fiery, falling
in smoke and sulfurous stone.
Captured by the sight,
she froze, a salted stele,
eternal monument to the heartache
of leaving house and home in Sodom.
Fleeing for her life: the only haven
safe from falling bomb and cloud of gas
a border in the desert sand
two staggering thirsty weeks away.
They say she turned, though pulled at last
by stronger hands, reached back for hearth
and house where she had learned to cook and clean
and make the things that make a home.
Captured by the lens,
she is frozen on the berm, memorialized,
eternal refugee without the heart
to cross the border into Lebanon.