Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Travel Ban (Poem)

Travel Ban

Ali shaves in an abandoned warehouse
in Serbia, sleeps rough, waking to think
of ways to slip across the EU's borders.

Belgrade's freezing but Hanan does
laundry, hangs it on leafless trees to dry.
On a dirty, not-so-distant wall she

reads the six green-painted words —
Please dont forget about us Please
that lose their meaning as she shivers

and coughs and tucks two loose hairs
back into her polka-dotted hijab.
She spends twenty-four hours a day

trying to stay warm, trying to imagine
looking into her looking glass, buying
persimmons at a favorite market stall,

holding the daughter she left behind.
Kaleem's a migrant, a long, long way
from Peshawar. He eludes the guards.

On the Eastern side of Mosul — it's
now half-fully retaken — Mohammed
presses to present his own ration card.

The Red Crescent has promised him food,
this time hands him clean bottled water.
Breaking bread before the crowd he smiles.

Nadima and Henef, from Aleppo, are stuck
in Ritsona, north of Athens. In the camp
they share what they own: the one picture

they could save from the Aegean's depths
as their boat bagged water, luggage lost
to Turkey's shore. The most beautiful day

in my life, Nadima says, Henef nodding
as he recalls their wedding. Amineh
and Tarek share a picture, too. Summer

it was, sunny and a Friday the last time
they walked and laughed and talked
endlessly about the delicious barbecue.

Sahar, 40, from Damascus, remembers.
Inside the tied-down tent where she lives
with her husband, she speaks of two

daughters and two sons no longer
small. One's in Turkey, two in Sweden,
another in Norway. In Norway is

a grandchild she'll see, her first time.
Abdalla's expecting family, one
o'clock, Dulles. He has patience to wait

through the night through the day.
He doesn't know about the travel ban.
She's 16, he murmurs, alone in Somalia.

© 2017 Maureen E. Doallas


This is both a found and an ekphrastic poem; constructed in response to photographs at Tom Clark's blog, it also uses some of the names and details in the photo captions. The title references the Trump administration's Executive Order on refugees and immigrants, otherwise known as the "travel ban". Implicitly, all of those named in this poem are subject to a travel ban, whether they're living underground somewhere in the EU or in refugee camps or finding themselves barred from entry on arrival to the United States. 

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