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Self-portrait with a fistfight on memory lane and Other Poems

by Fadairo Tesleem

To be a refugee is to seek shelter from hands
that stand on triggers, from bullets that rip

our skins, and from the flooding of our land with
our blood.

At Azraq Refugee Camp, in Syria,
The guards with their guns, 
a gallery of lost things:
pictures of our dilapidated huts,
the race my father ran
before the bullet outstripped him of life.
Memory unbraids the sutures
we fight so hard to heal.

The gun’s mouth a storm
that leaves nothing in its wake,
not even the mountain that was my father. 
Tonight, I feel the silence of my dead village. 
There is a tiny space
between what has happened and what
is going to happen:
the only time my father could hasten his pace
was before he was robbed of his breath.

I do not have records of survivors,
but I witnessed we all ran: myself,
my siblings and the girl I gifted my soul.
إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون
was my father’s watchword,
meaning: everything God gave us
has its method of returning to him.

In shaa Allah (ii)

(after Danusha Lameris)

From my inception,  
it’s been bad to prophesize
drought and even worse to believe
famine ever existed. 
In shaa Allah
is the only feasible rope of hope 
my people hold unto.
There is always a foul smell of blood 
and plentiful ashes after every war.
In shaa Allah
our sons shall return 
from the battlefield,
weighing songs of victory on their lips.
In shaa Allah
may these withered
flowers sprout again. 
May fate bring back
our husbands, lost to the winds.
Every bit of what our parents prayed against
happened in their lifetime:
may our descendants live long,
so long to attend our funerals.
As a child, I grew up watching my parents, 
our parents, mumble these words:
in shaa Allah
there will be enough rain this year
we’ll sit to watch our children dance
the night away.

Photo courtesy of Suad Kamardeen
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