Three Poems
Shaindel Beers

Painting by Azerbaijan War Survivor Sasha Morohov, age 9

The Red Cross nurse is smiling and beautiful.
The way I remember my mother in dreams.
The nurse is beautiful because she is not from here.
Nothing here is beautiful any more. Even the sun is sad.
So I did not paint it in the picture. Only its three rays
peek out. Two golden like the sand of Azerbaijan.
One red, like the nurse’s lips. Like the cross on her hat.
Her satchel. The sun’s rays reach out to touch her. Only her.
The sun does not even see me here, under it, crying.

Drawing Done by a Child at the Child Rescue Center in Bo, Sierra Leone, January 2002

When the woman asks me “What happened?” I lay out the picture.
Left to right. Left to right. Like we read at school. I put labels
around each scene. He killed my friend. I draw the man
with a machine gun. Me with my arms up. My friend lying
on the ground. The rebel is chasing this boy. A fast car and a boy
looking out of the picture. Like he is saying “Help!”
He killed the man with a knife. I make sure to make the knife
big. Bigger than both of the men. Bigger than life.
He is burning the house. I use all black, except for the fire
which is red scribble. I wanted page numbers like in our books
at school, but I wasn’t sure how because this is one picture,
one piece of paper, four scenes. So I circled numbers. Some
of them are our ages. Some of them are just numbers.

Painting by a Child at the Landmine Education Center in Dong Ha (Quang Tri Province, Vietnam)

We are playing and having fun. All smiling. I have drawn us floating
like we are swimming in the blue sky. Bi`nh is in her pink sweater,
green skirt, and I am in my red dress, red tights. Tuan is laughing
in his blue shirt, red shorts. But above us are skeletons holding
landmines. I don’t know yet if they are good or bad. Other children
warning us not to dig in the countryside who learned too late
what not to touch. Or if they are bad spirits tempting us. Go
ahead. Just. One. Touch. I do know the number I have drawn
on one mine. 13. The number of children lost in our village.

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. A Brief History of Time, her first full-length poetry collection, was released by Salt Publishing in 2009. She is currently working on her second collection, The Children’s War. Find her online here.