I feel incredibly blessed by the experiences I had at Iowa State University, where I earned my MFA in Creative Writing and Environment, learned from some amazing poets (Heather Derr-Smith, Debra Marquart, and Mary Swander), and served as President of Ames-ISU for Darfur. Since graduating, I have been fortunate to teach a wide variety of English and Communication courses, and I hope to bestow upon my students a love for writing. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @bdburmeister.
Author's Note: Beginning in 2003, as retaliation for rebel attacks, the government of Sudan supported a militia, the Janjaweed, to not only eradicate the rebel armies but also the entire self-identifying African population of the country. Primarily centered in the Darfur region of western Sudan, this campaign of terror and violence resulted in the displacement of millions, the tragic deaths of hundreds of thousands, and countless rapes--particularly among those women and girls who ventured from the internally displaced persons camps to retrieve firewood.
Meanwhile, in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, a series of civil wars spanning decades has ravaged their nation. As in Darfur, the death tolls have been incomprehensible. A culture of rape as a spoil of war has been rampant and rationalized by many of the soldiers in the conflicts.
The following poems are inspired by interviews and news articles, as well as books and documentaries detailing these tragedies.
It is my hope that through raising awareness for these tragedies, we can place pressure on our leaders to do more, as well as increase support for organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Heal Africa who do much good work in these regions.
Ahmed arrived in the camp after Janjaweed
attacked his village with sticks, blades, guns.
Their assault came quick,
at night in his own home.
While they beat Ahmed,
his little daughter, son
got frightened, ran away.
The next morning God returned:
he found them on the road to town.
Even with them pressed to him,
he thought he would lose his mind.
There would be no return,
no going back home,
only miles and miles of fear
and the thought that in Kass
there are forty bodies and no one to bury them.
“Camp Story” was originally published in Blue Hour Magazine.
Djedida, December Morning, 2005
Kneeling, praying, the village’s
Allaabu Akbars echo
in the halls of the small mosque.
Their reply comes in both doors,
East and West,
a flood of men dressed as soldiers
who say nothing but shoot.
The village’s confused stampede
attempts to break past them.
An old man dives
for one of the intruders legs,
knocking him back
and into more,
his two sons might escape.
A bullet enters his eye
the back side of his throat.
But it works.
The old man’s children and more
race past while many
more find their escape
through small, tunneling metal.
Shouts of “The slaves have left!”
“Djedida, December Morning, 2005” was originally published in Blue Hour Magazine.
We told the police what they did,
and the officers nodded,
They ripped our clothes,
we said. They made us walk
naked in front of all their men.
Their general smoked
as we walked,
and he smiled, too.
We told the police this,
kept talking, said the things our mothers
told us not to say.
These men we told, they nodded.
Their hands held paper,
and nothing would they write.
Thank you, they said and moved us away.
But do you know our names?
They placed their hands on our backs, pushed us away.
But do you know our names?
As Color and Culture Suggest
In Kampala, Sara sits
At table with three other women,
The four of them victims.
The women are hesitant to speak
Until Sara shares her story.
They drink water as Sara explains
That she is not so different
As color and culture suggest.
That one night in college,
As she walked the five blocks
Home from a party,
A car pulled up beside her,
And the driver said, sweetly,
“We’ll give you a ride.”
Sara tells the women she refused,
That she told the men she was almost home.
But that that was not what the men wanted to hear,
And how two men sprung from the car
And grabbed her.
Sara tells all that she can of the story
Before one and then all of the women ask
To know about the war that is happening
In her country.
Outside of Nyala, Sara heard a boy speak,
could not sleep for three nights.
His words played and replayed through her mind.
“I want to be a pilot,”
but his dreams of flight
were fueled by things
she had never known,
could not understand.
his family’s camels, goats, and cows,
their land, peanuts, sorghum,
and how it was taken away.
“I will fly to America,”
for he knew what such
a place was and meant.
“I will get many weapons there.
Like they burned us,
I want to burn them.”
©2015 Brian Burmeister