Hard to believe that a month of my sabbatical has gone by. I’ve been busy writing, reading, and interviewing people for my book project. I think I’ve fallen into a kind of rhythm: writing in the morning, exercising at noon, and reading (or more likely working around the house) in the afternoon. Then a bit of editing at night, with some help from Lisa, who kindly–mercifully–reads my pieces and provides good, honest feedback.

I’ve also gotten into a kind of process, at least with the interviews. After each hour-long interview session, I transcribe the entire thing, which usually takes a couple of days and about 16 or 17 single-space pages. By the end of that, I feel like I have a handle on the voice of the person, and I jot some notes about its characteristics. Then I look for really powerful moments that occurred in the interview. Sometimes, those moments transfer almost directly into a found poem or prose poem. Other times, I treat the moments with some language of my own, hoping to amplify or clarify the effect.

So, here’s an example. In this excerpt (to see it, you need Chrome), Amie explains how small boy soldiers marched her and her two aunts (as well as their children) down to the beach (Robertsport, Liberia) to sort out the government loyalists, who were summarily executed that evening, from the rest of the civilians, who were freed. Amie and relatives spent eight hellish hours under the hot sun on the beach. [This clip appears with her permission.]

I thought this was an amazing story, and I really liked her use of the “sheep and goats” parable to help me understand the gravity of the situation. I took some of her language and wrote the following poem, which I hope, someday, will make it into the book.

The Sheep and the Goats

The small boys took us to the Robertsport beach,

took us from our beds, pulled us from our ceilings,

and marched us by the thousands

down to the damp beach, where the sorting began.

They had been told, these nimble black boys,

how to recognize the enemy—

a horn-shaped callous on the arch of the foot,

the unmistakable mark left by government boots.

And so they sorted us by the thousands, scrutinizing

muddied feet, pushing sympathizers across the careful sand line

to await the evening killing, which they, the least of these,

would carry out under the comfort of darkness.

–Robert Rozema and Amie Tucker

Thank you for reading it. Amie has had incredible experiences, and I hope you get to read about more of them in the future.