The Blue Water Buffalo

One in 250 Cambodians, or 40,000 people,

have lost a limb to a landmine.

—Newsfront, U.N. Development Programme Communications Office


On both sides of the screaming highway, the world

is made of emerald silk – sumptuous bolts of it,

stitched by threads of water into cushions

that shimmer and float on the Mekong’s munificent glut.

In between them plods the ancient buffalo – dark blue

in the steamy distance, and legless

where the surface of the ditch dissects

the body from its waterlogged supports below

or it might be a woman, up to her thighs

in the lukewarm ooze, bending at the waist

with the plain grace of habit, delving for weeds

in water that receives her wrist and forearm

as she feels for the alien stalk, the foreign blade

beneath that greenest of green coverlets

where brittle pods in their corroding skins

now shift, waiting to salt the fields with horror.


“The Blue Water Buffalo was originally published in the Emily Dickinson Awards Anthology, Universities West Press.