Poem inspired by Sahel: The End of the Road by Sebastiao Salgado
You say you understand Sahel;
What has happened here:
You think you can put it in your frame and speak of its histories.
But how can you understand Sahel
When you don’t even understand yourself?
How can you understand Sahel
When you know nothing of the world you live in?
Yes, Sahel is hungry,
But aren’t we all?
Are you not also hungry?
You a clean suit,
Drifting between the lines of concrete monoliths,
Hungry for money,
Hungry for purpose,
Hungry for validation,
Hungry for more time.
We are all victims of man-made deaths.
Are droughts not made by the hand of human error?
Is starvation not created by the will of a government’s negligence?
If you don’t die now,
You surely will later,
Struck down by time itself.
Is time not a figment of the human imagination?
Is it not some rule we conjured to give our lives an all-commending order?
Yes, Sahel is hungry for food,
But you are hungry for more time.
Maybe if you stopped tracing the lines on your face,
And wallowing over the etches in your skin,
You wouldn’t die so quickly.
Even you writing this,
Listening to it,
Are a hypocrite,
Pretending you understand this endless stretch of dry land,
That you understand those suffering within it.
All that you know of Sahel are photographs:
Walking dead men,
But we are all visions born of each other’s misconceptions.
Sahel isn’t any one place.
Sahel is everywhere,
Sahel is everything.
Sahel is the rainless desert.
Sahel is the malnourished form.
But Sahel is also the concrete landscape.
Sahel is the cities of loneliness and shattered dreams.
Sahel is the machine-possessed fire
That is devouring our futile knowledge.
Sahel is the beginning,
And Sahel is the end.
Sahel is the hunger
That is gripping your soul