I can’t imagine what it’s like to flee my home as a refugee. Just a few sketched words:
brushes against the canvas tent
A small quavering
that barely replaces the once
now crushed in bones under rubble
Joy. It breaks and cracks,
Five hundred miles in the past.
The wandering is one thing
But the wondering is hell.
There’s a Nowhere in the heart.
And the soul is a worn stone, ground
as sand shifts
brushing the quavering
refugees that barely can place
buried under waiting.
Peace. It looks away.
And hope grows in withered form here…
First iteration from one of the products of our very first monthly writing group with Halley Greene.
reverberates through the
room bouncing through
heads and paintings of barking
animals fighting over bones…
if truth enters, it seeps in under
Starting at our feet.
and if it isn’t trampled
it may rise to the waist and if
our arms embrace it,
rising higher – squeezed up
up. up. into our eyes and wine glasses
grazing soft kisses on eyebrows
relief through fires’ fear.
extinguishing like a slow suffocating
unaware but so. so. clear
up. up. in the air.
until our ears quit ringing
with the reverberating.
On Nov 8, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Working where I do, we are surrounded by the news, and it’s easy to become numb to the numbers. But today, seeing pictures, reading almost-surreal first-hand accounts of a devastated place half way around the world, a couple thoughts came to me…
You know what I can’t imagine?
Waiting for that storm to hit.
Feeling like you can’t do anything else – but
perhaps, if you dare,
And just wait.
And knowing that the odds are against you.
Against your whole community.
Knowing you or your neighbor will be the one washed away.
And if it’s your neighbor,
You’ll be walking by his body in just 24 hours,
But relieved that you’re alive.
Or will you be?
And so you sit and wait and only hope.
As the winds get stronger.
As the rain falls harder.
Is there a calm that falls on you, like an eye
In the middle
or right before?
Or maybe I’d want to shout,
“Typhoon Haiyan – WE SALUTE YOU! Bring your rage on!”
But it would do no good.
Bravery and death
have no correlation.
And the only question I have left now is…
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Due to the nature of my job, in the midst of the Christmas music and lights, I can’t ignore a prominent theme that has been at my work: the need for peace in the DRCongo – called the most dangerous place for women and the rape capital of the world (you can read more about it at http://www.lynnehybels.com).
But since I’ve never been there – this poem really seems slightly… presumptuous? Who am I to even try to imagine what it is like there? I’ll never know…
But this mixture, this paradox of Christmas and the conflict in DRC has been tumbling around together in my head. Somehow – it has formed the following (feedback, comments welcome):
To walk across the road and into the forest
without returning with torn dress
from running, from man
Left with only an obligation of survival
“if only” is a discouraged dream
Oh – for a renewal of tears
long since dried with terrifying resignation
Bow your head, oh Women
Remember centuries ago
with perceived and public shame
Who delivered the Deliverer
and fled from murderous intent
Oh Emmanuel, hear our prayers
Remember Mary’s Daughters
Between the great necessary cause to end all wars, suffering, pain…
the need to simply gather wood.
To simply live.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Over the last several years of working with refugees, I’ve really tried to capture (in poetry of course) their story – especially their story in arriving in the US. I’ve tried several different poems. Here is the most recent one, which I wrote in January. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to ever fully give this gift.
If only one word stood out
If only I knew the switch
Turned on the light
And the knob turned down the heat.
If only I couldn’t read in the eyes of my neighbor
Hesitation, uncertainty, even fear.
If only I knew the tone you used
That here a handshake wasn’t rude
Or a left hand wasn’t dirty
That if a door says ‘pull’
You have to turn the handle first,
And if the light is green
That it’s okay to move.
If only the yellow paper in my hand
Could mean something
If only I could connect
The picture to the symbol.
Sometimes I’m afraid to answer the door
Or just can’t sign my name to something
though you tell me it’s okay.
If only, I didn’t stand tongue-tied
Longing to help you understand
As I used to long for:
If only I could lift the weight of inability
To express my relief, my sadness
To help you understand why it’s important to remember
And why I’m afraid that I’ll forget
If only – then maybe I wouldn’t want to leave for…home?
Whatever home the camp could be to me
At least I know the rules and the life
At least there was familiarity and family
then I think I could try to stand to stay.
I guess I couldn’t help it…
Safely giving gratitude in warmth-scented turkey stupor
Thanks generically overflowing
Hard to believe somewhere around the world –
The paralyzed grateful for a step
The starving grateful for a crumb
The homeless grateful for warmth
The hurting grateful for forgetfulness
The persecuted grateful for safety
The lonely grateful for a smile
And I –
– Wonder if I even understand
Provider, Refuge, Father, Life –
I can only say
a bewildered and humble