War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Wadi

Another installment of May Day, a fictional series of letters from a young woman to her lover serving in Afghanistan. for more background on May Day, click on the May Day icon at the right of the web page

M,

home again. 12 km ride on my new bike through the countryside. the physio said to me before I left home “get a bicycle. take long trips. it’ll be good for your legs. your knee. who knows, you may even dance again“ I can only hope.

so I bought a hybrid. half-mountain half-city. with upright bars. decent price. feels like a Sunday-going-to-church kind of bike. all ladylike. I love it. it’s got great shocks. it glides and glides. hardly any work. my first new bike 15 years.

here I’ve been riding the streets of this little town. population 101 (102 with me I guess). four streets. two avenues. a secondary highway on the outskirts leading south to Montana. nobody rides here it seems. they take cars, trucks. even just a block and a half to the store. to the bar. except the kids. and they ride on the sidewalks because the roads are so rocky. full of puddles left over from last week’s rains. (there’s nothing like a prairie storm. oh well maybe Afghanistan’s you’d probably say).

today I rode the outskirts of the town. then down to Railway Ave. down past the abandoned grain elevator. it so tall, so weather-worn. looked out at the grasslands, rolling heavy land. in the distance.

found a little path along the irrigation canal. the grasses this year hiss extra loud. so green so late. it’s been so wet this prairie summer. little clumps of marsh flowers. delicate yellow saucers of colour. dunk their green stems in the rushing water.

I rode the ruts. the wind picking up. a hard ride into it. saw a gelding, big, black, black as the horse you told me you saw when you forded the Arghandab, that day of the ambush. the dangerous horseshoe. all gunned up.

the big black horse pawed the edge of the canal. bent it’s gorgeous neck, drank deep from the green water. I passed it quick. not wanting a kick. then rode some more until I came to a lock. a metal water gate. a metal bridge with holes in it (so it won’t ice up I suppose). parked my bike, hung my legs over the edge. daydreamed.

I remember you telling me about wadis over there. irrigation ditches. and how they dried to stinking puddles in summer. swelled in winter. I remember you telling me about the little girl you found. drowned. in the wadi. she slipped. she fell. out playing with other kids. and no one could get her out. the sides too steep for little arms, little legs. no purchase. no ladders. no ropes. nothing.

I remember you turned the corner. the long farmyard wall. heard the kids shouting. saw villagers running. towards the little doll floating facedown. her tiny dress waving, waving in the stinking water. you yelled. dropped your pack, your rifle. “quick quick” and you men were just men. not enemy. as you hung onto each other. lowered a father down. hanging onto wrist over wrist over wrist. until he reached the little one, arm outstretched. but she was gone.

the girl flopped up the chain of men to your medic. a wisp of baby’s breath. baby CPR. half an hour. but she was gone. only the sound of the hot wind in the trees. the mother’s wail. you kitted up. moved on.

she was the same age as your girl. it could have been her. golden baby hair waving in the water. you nightmared for a year.

they dug the irrigation ditch sometime in 1944. water to this thirsty earth. I dangle my tired feet. my tired knees. listen to the prairie breeze shake and rattle the tall grass, the marshmallow, the yellow birds in the trees.

S


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Wadi. It was posted here on August 08, 2010.

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