You cried while telling me about it,
about the wandering,
about the land packed and stony
under your boots,
the air dry as burnt bread,
the skin blistering like volcanic earth,
and your head, a numb little knob
but the astonishing monotony
of the miles
and the village,
its cluster of homes
like a flock of sheep in the open,
its people dim with terror,
and how you raped the first woman you saw there.
how she crumpled like old newspaper
under you, pounded your back with her hands,
went limp later as the child in the corner
cried and cried not knowing why,
and crawled about and knocked
over the kerosene stove.
Your tea had gone cold.
I put my hand on the back of your neck
and said that everything would be okay.
I said that I understood.
But even after all these years,
when I close my eyes, hers
swim up fiercely, warm and brown,
close as a made memory
and every time we make love,
I see her bruised hands
reaching up like a prayer.