Ségou, Mali, 1993
She floats above the river like a shade
Of summer in her yellow cotton dress,
As pale and perfect as the moon’s caress;
With blood-red fingers slicing down the blade,
Then tracing tracks across the roughly-made
Old linen of those maps, which only guess
At crimes the conquerors dare not confess.
She hesitates: for now she is afraid
I want her. But, in truth, we never met -
Just some conceit that I may know her need,
While empires rise and empires fall - and yet
The hope remains that we may still be freed
From fear, to lay a perfume on our sweat,
To have, to hold, to love until we bleed.