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  • Writer's pictureJoseph R. Goodall

Who Has Control?

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Photo by J. R. Goodall

It is utter foolishness

Making pigment out of clay.

It has texture but no nutrition;

It occupies my hands but gives no shelter.

Clay pigment has become my companion,

My conversation partner,

Because rain has been an estranged friend,

Angry at the sun.

The summer months have baked the ground,

So it takes the strength of an ox

To break through the top layer,

Revealing the powdered red dust beneath.

Children laugh as I pulverize chunks of earth

Mixed with my saliva.

They ask if I'm making dinner.

I'm quiet, glad to be of entertainment.

The richest color is sourced from

The ditch by the road -

Recently excavated by the military.

Gaunt men labored for weeks,

Swinging the road through our remote village

As their commanding officer shook hands

With our clueless mayor.

We scratched our heads.

How would we benefit from this?

The first and only rain of the year

Was a merciless deluge.

Precious fertile soil was swept away.

Rust-colored rivulets fractured the

Road surface like heavy tire tracks,

Revealing round stones

Stolen from the often-dry river bank.

There were no vehicles to take us to safety,

To bring supplies or carry news of help.

Our crops were drowned by the storm,

Then the barren rows were scorched by the heat.

The road produced a great dusty cloud

On the edge of our community,

Barring us from the world.

I became an artist for the sake of my sanity

They think I’ve lost my voice, gone mute.

They think I’m trying to tell a story with my fingers.

It isn't so.

I’m mourning; I'm weeping in auburn and brown swaths,

Crying to God, who has forsaken us.

Our story is lost, forgotten and ignored.

Sinking my fingers into this earthen paint

Has turned me into a frivolous creator -

Shaping symbols and forming meaning with cursed soil.

I'm an outcast, a liability, an unproductive pariah.

I surround myself with rocks and discarded cloth,

Random objects covered with erratic patterns.

This one is for the child I saw laying in the street,

Fragments of a shawl strewn into the shape of a skull.

Another is long and winding like a lazy snake,

An ‘S’ curve as impotent as the dusty road.

Cactus spines and an old hat

Represent the ruthless sun,

The distant, deaf department government.

Even in my crafty attempt to shape the earth as art -

Still she controls me.

She reminds me of home.

I cannot leave, and yet, why would I want to?

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