3rd Place - Oct 2011


These latest missionaries

carry instead of bibles
note-pads, tape-recorders,
the veil replaced at most
by a perfunctory head-scarf
over their flak jackets.
Partnered only by
interpreters, cameramen,
they are brought in by jeep
or helicopter, left
alone in a no-man's-land
to disturb the violent dust
of Somalia, Afghanistan.

Though no one grants safe passage
through checkpoints, ambushes,
somehow these women can,
for all their western gear,
stare down Kalashnikovs
and probe behind the silence
of their veiled sisterhood,
divining, then tapping into
overlooked aquifers
of truth below the desert,
so giving voice to the pain
of slums and settlements,
letting caged women speak,
allowing their screams to be heard.
To mortify the flesh
they are embedded like shrapnel
in the living corpse of empire.

~ Christopher Levenson