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Contributors' Notes

Why We Can't Hear Them

Gretchen Fletcher

Swept across the desert like swarms of locusts, human hordes blown forward by the hot breath of the Janjaweed they feel on their necks, those "devils on horseback" who have burned homes, killed husbands, raped daughters. Swaddled from head to ankle in yards of saffron and alizarin as protection against the heat of the sun – and the sting of the haboob that blocks out the sun - the women seem as jeweled scarabs scurrying across ocher earth. Leafless thornbushes sprout blossoms of cloth ripped from robes as the people pass on bare feet shuffling across the goz, the young carried on not-much-older shoulders, the elderly pulled in barrows from Darfur to Chad. Huddled under sheets of flapping plastic stuck on poles, they send children out to find firewood in a treeless landscape. Cries for help are forced by the howling harmattan back into open mouths, crammed by the hot wind down parched throats so we don't hear them.