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Black flies swarm in the horrid heat,
circle the Nuer mother and her two daughters
lying in the sub-Saharan dust of Watt.
Knobby knees stick out of skeletal frames
bearing witness to their flight from war and famine.
A small boy wearing only a string of beads
hunches over a gourd of relief corn.
His oversized head hangs over a protruding belly,
orange highlights in his patchy hair glisten in the sun.
The boy is too weak to wave away the flies sucking
moisture from his watery eyes.
A bloated fly moves from his parched lips to mine
as if to wake me with a kiss.

Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

Sharon Nelson Arendshorst

Sharon Nelson Arendshorst is a retired RCA pastor living and writing poetry in Holland, Michigan.


  • Jeff Barker says:


    I love so much about this poem. I suppose it helps that I’ve almost been there in Nuerland, if only through Arlene Schuiteman’s journals and letters, along with Eleanor Vandevort’s wonderful book “A Leopard Tamed.” May your poem awaken us to the truth and beauty of that taste of Eden. And also to the rich church history that brought you, Yuol, Arlene, Kuac, Eleanor, and so many into friendship and family. (And if you haven’t read it, you’ll appreciate the chapter called “The Fly” in the book “Sioux Center Sudan.”)


  • Jack Ridl says:

    Among our most unassuming, subtle, and artistically masterful poets. Her depth of understanding of the ubiquity of the sacred is itself sacred.