Our camera should hang close behind the boy
with Baghlan province over his shoulder
scrolling the minivan window.
We can hear the Pashtu of his father and uncle—
the snoring of his grandfather.
Then cut to a camera aiming down
a machine gun barrel swaying from the father
to the uncle and grandfather all standing
outside the vehicle. Through the van window
we see two American soldiers approaching.
In subtitles: Please,
we have come six hours from our farm
for your doctor. My son’s knee is hurt.
Now eye level, men and soldiers frame
the shot. Moments pass. Wind whistles.
Dishdashas and rifle slings flap in the sound.
The doctor, who is not a doctor, who
is only a medic, is sent for.
He speaks with the father, and crouches
beside the boy seated in the sliding door.
Close on the doctor’s face, we can see he knows
at a glance the knee is hopeless, but is unaware
how cruel to say so without, at least,
pretending it might be otherwise.
We can see that it doesn’t take him long.
Now the van is driving away, and the boy
going home is not the boy who arrived.
This boy knows more surely his knee, gnarled
and bunched like a tree root, is not temporary.
He will limp the rest of his life to the well, to the shura,
at harvest shoveling the wind with grains and chaff.