In shāʾ Allāh

He will go with a new name, passport, discover a hired parent at the port.

Europe’s borders closed, so illegal journeys will begin anew at the port.

I’m called by my passport name, buy groceries, cook the food I bring home.

Vitamins and toothpaste, I say to a boy who asks me to get him shoes at the port.

An Afghan girl grabs my hand, points to a rotting tooth, repeats me! me! me!

Her brother has soccer cards, 30 euros, dreams himself a goalie at the port.

If you’re Syrian you’ll have less trouble getting papers, otherwise sell jewelry,

bribe your way, bargain for a stolen cell phone, be sure not to get stuck at the port.

In the middle of the night, I wake thinking I forgot to say Take water with you.

Ali says thank you, his English polite, his manners promise safe passage at the port.

Boats appear, more disappear, sunk with people who sold all they had for some luck.

Smugglers are on the lookout, they know opportunity and smell profit at the port.

God be with you, Judi says, holding her hand to her heart. In shāʾ AllāhAzize says.

We pray Allāh is welcoming, a father who won’t abandon his children at the port. 

Are You Dressed for a Party?

The end of the road is a beautiful mirage, 

Fady Joudah, ‘Atlas’

He was waiting for me at the metro stop

Above ground


As I waited for him    more than I can now say    how

My life      so different from his

Felt bereft

Ali, a poet    writes continuously    I have not written a poem in

a long while I say    it embarrasses me to say this    Then 

Ali thanks me and I begin to weep    for what are you thanking me?

    we had had a few meals together     texted messages 

Over a period of months when he would tell me what he was cooking

I would say something like    Sunday! I’ll finally read something  

This to someone whose every day is a day inside

Days    he texts me    I read & read because there is nothing else

in days of unemployed waiting when he quotes lines of Szymborska to me

And finally described the trip 

Over the mountains between Iran and Turkey where there is a plain

border guards

More than 500 of us

and the smugglers

perched in three places

we had minutes to make it


and the guards


were always looking

I am trying to say goodbye when

He says you are     too much   and I’m not sure how to understand this

But he is thanking me    when I say nothing meaning 

It was nothing

This is too much in the never enough    of getting Ali into an English class

meeting up a few times   some readings we did

Ali reading poems in Persian, teaching me a few words

Arouz   thank you   merci   I learn his family ate watermelon during

Yalda the winter solstice 

I tell him I’m lost he says how can anyone not be

Now that he’s received his papers, he’ll go to the Netherlands

He’s never been on a plane though he crossed the plain

In shoes like these he tells me and I look at the black shine of the gleaming patent leather and look up from my salad thinking there’s a strand of hair in my mouth as I’m eating and have not removed the hair from my mouth, but do and say no, and he nods yes and describes the Afghan friends who lifted him from under his arms to carry him, that he had a candle he was carrying and traded it for a cup of water, that saved me

I listen eating, or rather not eating 

When Ali tells me he won’t have any of my wine

Beer maybe?

He shakes his head, says he used to make his own alcohol

In Iran

He saw me carrying groceries    he’d just gotten out of his English class

I was not well   Ali crossed the street, took my bags

Holding them the way he held the umbrella after we’d had a meal as it started to rain

   and asked do you have a bathtub

suggesting I put on some music

Very loud   lay in the bath   Forget everything

Instead, I surfed the net and thought of the night Ali sent a text

     with pictures of welts on his back

He told me what he cooked for dinner    he was sore 

I asked why

    some boys he said    they were so young, how sad

These boys       

He was not going to tell me

He was going to tell me

He felt sorry for whoever they were   

He was very sorry for this    don’t they have hopes?

He wants to know why this happens   

He didn’t fight back

He let them hit him    until they left

No, he was not packed yet, but knew he was going to wear what he was wearing this evening, as we talked    the same patent-leather shoes    I was like this then   when I was crossing over the plain, the smugglers asked me Where are you going dressed this way? Are you going to a party?

You are I say, and Ali nods, and I give him

A black moleskin notebook

I thought might be useful

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