Friday Poem

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
crumpled his neck, his face
staring up at the ceiling
of sticks which like most ceilings
anywhere in this world is blank.

by Shane Book
from New American Poets