Escape Journey, 1988
They force you to crawl, these mountains,
even if you are only 14.
Who made their first journey over them?
Whose feet created this track?
The exhausted mules carry us
along with the smuggled goods.
Sitting on their backs, climbing mountains
feels much safer than going down.
The steepness makes me lean backwards,
my back nearly touching the mule’s,
then holding on becomes impossible
and I dismount.
It is easier, safer to walk sideways.
And from high up, I can see the white valley.
“A valley of plaster.” I tell my sister.
The mule-owner says: “It is snow.”
But I cannot imagine being rescued from this rough mountain
only to walk over the snow, covering the river.
I cannot imagine listening to the rushing water
pushing by holes where the river exposes itself.
“You are too young to complain,”
the mule-owner says,
and I look at my father, his little body,
and listen to his difficult breathing.
But then again, he’s been here before.
from Life for Us (Bloodaxe, 2004), © Choman Hardi 2004, used by permission of the author and the publisher.