by Nuha Shaikh

History will write about you in gold
not silver,
Feed filigree, self-spun, into the nib of a pen and

Frontline an Exodus,
Open the doors, and light candles for
Those lost along the way.
We’ve made it.
“Free at last”.
On unfamiliar soil with a foreign tongue.
A bridge tells me to go back home.
A happenstance welcoming party;
No fault of its own.

I fall silent as the night slinks in.
I almost wish this quiet misery
Was ricocheting in my ribcage.
I know how to deal with
Bombs and degradation and
Split foundations, cracked cement.
I don’t remember the last time I felt safe.

There’s shouting in the street.
Just like home.
Both voices carry an undercurrent of fear.
And anger. Always anger.

Jump out of the window,
carrying nothing but your family’s stories,
No matter the number of stories and
Run for your life.
You have no choice. Not here, not anywhere.
Icy breath, the ghost of the person you once were.
Each one leaving you like all the rest.

Or did you leave them?

Let memory steal this escape with the others.
Become a thief of security
And learn that your skin and clothes are seen as sins.
Is it your fault you will never see your children grow up?
Make the hard decision to leave it all behind.
You cannot help but be relieved that you are caught–
Hysteria and heart torn.
Do it all over again.

Never again will I see my childhood in vivid, verdant colors.
Home is just a pile of desert dust and dereliction.
Neglect coats every alveoli in my lungs.
The worst kind of cigarette to inhale is the last one you reach for,
The one marked “before” as the cancer starts and spreads.
The last one you press to your lips is the goodbye
We never got.

Inspired by PBS’s Frontline series, episode by the same name (Exodus), discussing the Refugee Crisis