Instructions for the Consumption of your Humanitarian
Your package contains:
beans in tomato sauce
beans and tomato vinaigrette
salt and pepper
a napkin and a match
(Contents of food packages air-dropped in Afghanistan, October 2001.)
Catch your package.
It weighs a kilogram.
It has been dropped from
a great height.
Avoid it as it falls.
A can of beans delivered
at speed can become
a lethal weapon. Any
ordinary thing can kill.
Hide as your package falls.
Bury yourself in the red earth.
The fall comes on like thunder.
Its drops are a heavy rain.
Your package may fall upon a
mine field. It may fall upon
your dinner table, thus scoring
a direct hit. It may fall into
the wrong hands, or it may fall into
the hands of children. It may
fall beyond reach. It may fall
upon deaf ears.
Open your humanitarian package
with care. Do not spill its contents on
stony ground. Do not expose its
contents to the scrutiny of sunlight, nor
store it at temperatures below freezing.
Consume immediately, using the knife
and fork provided and spreading your
napkin so that it will catch every crumb.
Wash your hands on the completion of
your meal, using any available water.
Dispose of all wrappings in a manner
which acknowledges the beauty of this
red earth. Give thanks to the force that
sends you food and instruction
from thin air.
There is no recommended sequence
for the consumption of your humanitarian
package. You live in a free world. You
can set a fire with your match. You
can light a candle. You can sharpen
your utensils, or use them to spread jam
on your beans. You can eat this food in
any order and in any combination. You
can add peanut butter to the vinaigrette
or eat shortbread with salt and pepper.
It makes no difference. Should your
belly swell and split like a seedhead
you will see that all food dissolves in
the acids natural to the human stomach.
We do recommend, however, that you
eat fast. There is food for only one day.
There is food for only 35,000 and 6
million are waiting. We recommend
that you dispense with ceremony.
Eat while you can.
When they look out at daybreak
they see that the thorn bushes are
coated in sticky substances. The
children of the wilderness are afraid,
not knowing if this be the fruit of good
or evil. But hunger forces its own solution.
They taste, they lick their fingers. They
perch by the bushes like the small brown
birds who fly in flocks, nesting where they can.
They have no proper names because they
are so common, these sparrow children.
They are so many that their fall cannot
be marked from any distance.
They swarm out at daybreak
thousands of them
to strip the bushes,
taking sweet stuff from strangers.