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Seeking a shepherd outside the city

By April Yee

These days, I feel unground-

ed, wanting a long road

to distance me from air

that some might say Allah

exhaled for me to breathe

and suffocate from dust.


The yellow sheets of dust

hang heavy, brush the ground.

Some mornings I can’t breathe.

I pack up for the road:

a tent, a torch, all of

survival’s plan. Somewhere


I’ll find a place with air.

An hour’s drive past dust:

now I can see all of

the palms, the rocks, the ground

massaging asphalt road

with hands of sand. I breathe.


Behind wire, camels breathe,

thin nostrils squeezing air

down drainpipe necks, a road

to lungs designed for dust.

They huddle on the ground.

Their shepherd comes. Masha’allah,


I say. Nod. Insha’allah,

he says, their babies breathe.

In the shepherd’s background,

kandouras puff with air,

strung up away from dust – 

their whiteness still erod-


ing, eaten by the road

and its exhales. Yalla,

his wrinkles also dust.

The camels rise and wreathe

the fence, the shirts of air

now drooping to the ground.


Yalla. Feet try to ground

the road. I suck in dust

that breathing turns to air.

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