In Search of a Homeland
The father sits across from the table,
he is listening to the translator and frowning.
He wants more time to work with his child,
and this is where I interrupt to tell him, in his language,
that he has not done anything wrong by reading to his son,
trying to help him after he gets back from a long haul.
This saudade, this separation, is not to be confused with learning
how to read and write. They talk of his interests, of Las Chivas
and we all agree, he does not have to fear the crossing
to find his way, he can give what little he has forever.
al-Maarri asks, which rings true, which shout can be heard loudest?
My students are five, and I tell them we need to get ready to help
our Syrian on Monday. They know who speaks Arabic, as they know
their own homeland, Bengali, Vietnamese, Spanish, Chinese, Gujarati,
Hebrew, and now a story they do not know, No amount of bears in the
woods can keep them from telling me what they will bring to school,
their toys, clothes and trinkets. A cardinal is on the barest of trees
searching for the frozen berries on this bitter day, and no amount
of beak to limb can loosen the fruit. Where is he, caught in his high tower?
What would he twitter if he saw us waiting at the door?
To Find This Other Life
The elephant taught herself Korean. She speaks to her ignorant keeper,
lets her know that no amount of whispering or poking at her side,
will change her mind. Work in ways that she is not meant to be.
Humans seem amazed at her cleverness-they admire her, photograph her,
repeat the same stupid commands over and over. How can they do this?
Finally, someone, the new one, shouts out to be silent. She puts her ear
to the ground and weeps, she is hungry, she is lost, she has left her home,
at great cost to her tribe. Tomorrow the refugee children arrive.
They will get a backpack with papers and pens, and a number to type in for free lunch.
And as they find this other life, I pray a fire drill won’t send them running
out into the street, calling to each other in their own language.
Dalia lived in an old train car with her brother because whenever her father
came back home he beat the living daylights out of them and finally coyote
said let's go, so they ran to the edge and took a train to Texas. She was locked
in a room with three girls from El Salvador and they took her pen, said no one
will read your poesía chica, so she begged to get to a phone to find her brother
and he called her back. Someone actually found her, and said oye, someone
is calling you! And she found her way to New Jersey. She found her way,
in school the teacher says, Can you do this homework? I can do anything maestra.
I can dance my way right here.
How to Keep Still
I am in the bird feeder, in the flyer from the supermarket,
and because the Hebrew heart, l’v has an added vowel at times,
this will be the beat that gives you time to measure the seed,
or too much will scatter, and choke the garden with weeds.
But back to the heart, your house. Reason and animal argue,
your mother, stuck in her chair, calling in that low voice for me.
And I see you driving — if you added the miles from this summer,
you could be in California by now, or at least Montana,.
It is the only way you stay put-getting a child from one place
to another, moving and not moving at the same time.
Darling, the heart doesn’t break, it gets flooded.
Collect the branches after this storm, clean out the beds,
pull the pots indoors. I won’t come back, but something will.
I meant to show you the two sides of your heart, and how to keep still.
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