Cutting fodder in Afghanistan
in riotous rose-patterned frocks,
hunkered down all afternoon,
amongst milk-white clover,
purple vetch and pink shaftal –
with its heady, sugar-almond scent –
three women, with careless rhythmic ease
slice swathes of fodder.
on pollen-laden air
dissect their world’s events –
will Miriam’s baby be here for Eid?
the calf born last week,
crickets eating Moosa’s wheat,
and who caused Basma to hide her smile,
yesterday at the well?
Sweat runs ignored
down dirt-streaked faces,
arms ache for rest
but no one stops till
heavy creels flow over.
Each helps the other hoist her load,
rise to her feet.
They move away spines straight, shoulders back –
reluctant queens –
heads forced high by leather straps.
‘Cutting Fodder in Afghanistan’ was first published in Poetry Scotland and subsequently included in My Mother Threw Knives an anthology of poems about women’s lives published by Second Light Network.