The Ugly American

Shara Lessley

BPR 45 | 2018


The boys beat the jennet because they could,
out of boredom, because she was in heat,

they beat her with sticks and switches and clods of
dirt. Because revolution had stalled the usual

parade of buses and there were no tourists to ferry up
800 rock-cut steps to The Monastery,

they pinned her against a cliff and beat her.
Only a woman, very pregnant, saw, who’d left

her husband snapping photos near Q’asr Al-Bint,
left him in search of shade, somewhere to rest.

And when the boys cheered and laughed
and thrust their hips and whipped the jennet,

baiting their donkeys to mount her,
the woman, too, picked up a stone, though

she was half a field away; she heard herself
curse, think every stupid soulless thing

she’d heard about the filth borne of this region.
And when a man—an uncle? cousin?—came

charging, freed the jennet as it brayed then loped,
when he berated the boys, driving them off, the woman

watched them saunter toward the village trail.
As they joked and kicked up sand, it was then she felt

deep within the son she had forgotten. Please
understand this isn’t metaphor: when

I dropped the rock, I had blood on my hand.