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
As I waited for him more than I can now say how
My life so different from his
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
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
He shakes his head, says he used to make his own alcohol
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
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