Limbs and Lungs

Last spring,
when flowers turned yellow
and rain started to smell of life,
My aging Syrian aunt
asked me,
“I wonder, what do people think
the solution
to our problem as a people is?”

My aging Syrian aunt’s eyes were black
like the color of Turkish coffee
that keeps you awake but knows not sleep.
Her hands cold,

Like the biting words that come out
of men in suits
as they talk about security threats
and economic threats.

The Mediterranean Sea does not listen
it opens its mouth,
and swallows bodies whole.

There is a no man’s land
in between Hungary and Serbia,

where young children have had to sleep —
in between barbed wires
with fear
as their blanket.

“They closed the border,” he says,
his young and tender brown eyes
burning like
fires in a forest.

There is shrapnel
in his back and I want to ask him
if he has any toys with him.
There is shrapnel
in his back and I want to find
innocence in his eyes.
A trace; a sliver
But his young and tender brown eyes
burn like
fires in a forest
in this no man’s land.

In the North of Lebanon,
there are tilted refugee camps.
Omar and Haya have made a temporary abode there.
But don’t you dare call that place home;
the only time Omar and Haya have come close
to finding home
after Damascus
is when the night falls and their hands
scramble desperately
for each other’s limbs and lungs.
Underneath Haya’s right breast
Omar finds the Umayyad Mosque,
he breathes in the old city,
and prays that this, too,
will not be taken away from him
the next time he is
Stripped And Searched by the Lebanese Authority.

My aging Syrian aunt’s eyes were tired
like waves that break far from
shore, but still take you home.
Her hands cold,

Like the dead bodies
of the seventy-one refugees in Austria
trapped
like cattle or like sheep
In the back
of a forgotten truck.

Have you reviewed Ghassan Kanafani’s novel
“Men in the Sun”?

You might have.
It follows three Palestinian refugees
crossing over the desert to Kuwait, hiding,
In the back
of a forgotten truck.

After the last checkpoint,
the driver opens the water tank
they hid in:
Indeed, they suffocated (Kanafani, 1962).

And us, ever-critical, ask,
“Well, why didn’t they knock?
Why didn’t they bang on the tank?”

But they did,

And they are
and we have forgotten
how to listen.

So,
I listen.

I listen to my aunt’s question again,
the one from last spring,
when flowers turned yellow
and rain started to smell of life,

“I wonder,” she asked, “what do people think
the solution
to our problem as a people is?”