Masham Means Evening
by Kanina Dawson
"The Afghan cooks arrive at camp before dawn so they don't get their heads cut off after work.
That can happen if they're not careful."
It is six years since Canadian forces began their long struggle to hold Kandahar province. Ten years since Canada opened its embassy in Kabul and launched Operation ATHENA to establish security in the city. Twelve years since Canadian forces were committed to Operation Enduring Freedom to dismantle al-Qaeda's network and remove the Taliban from power. As Canada prepares to bring its troops home for good, Masham Means Evening is a poetry collection that takes the reader inside army camps, convoys, schools, markets, and villages, charting a young female soldier's tour through Canada's war in Afghanistan.
Inextricably, vividly engaged with the human side of the war, Masham Means Evening recreates the ordinary soldiers and medics, the weary village leaders, the school principals fearing acid attacks on their female students, the "dangerous men" hidden behind a mask of hospitality – a microcosm of those whose fortunes have thrust them into the path of an endlessly complex conflict. Sensual lyricism contrasts with clean, spare language, bringing us quietly to the tragedies and small celebrations that happen in the spaces between. Images of breathtaking beauty are made fragile by a terrifyingly present brutality. These poems are a thin membrane barely containing both fury and grim fatalism at the new cruelties each day brings. It is an extraordinary debut collection rich in the images of a daily life forged from extreme circumstances.