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from the October 2014 issue

I Am a Refugee

My apologies, Sir,
That I come to you
As a refugee.
Accept me as a human being and not
As a slave.

Do not look down on me;
Do not look me up and down.
I am a poet;
My testimonies plaster the walls,
And people far and wide recite my poems.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

They destroyed my poems, along with the walls they hung upon;
When they torched the verses, I burned with them.
They broke my mind;
They robbed my thoughts;
They stripped our insides.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

Sir, you do not understand me,
And I do not understand you;
I am an Arab, and you a foreigner,
But we will speak through hand gestures.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

In my country
There is only hell, no heaven.
They made me forget all words
In all languages. 
We have forgotten how to understand words
And one another.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

Who and what I am . . . 
You’re asking who and what I am?
I am without a past,
Without a present,
Without a face;
I am a remnant of a person.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

In al-Zaatari they killed us,
Buried us alive in the sand;
Our women now whore,
While we pimp.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

In Lebanon they stabbed us in the back.
They bought and sold us;
They cast us aside, naked; 
They abandoned us, starved.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

I knocked on Arab doors
The sheikhs, the emirs and the kings
All chased me away;
I came to you.
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

My daughters in exile disowned me
In my eighties.
They fought against me;
I have no one left but you. 
Will you accept me among you
As a refugee?

My family, my daughters, my kin,
All of them sold me out;
They pilfered my life and forgot me;
They uprooted me and left me to wither at the embassy gates.
Foreigner, will you accept me
As a refugee?

Wretched are the joy
And servility of thanking one’s masters,
And the fools of my nation,
And my daughters,
And the criminals who drove me away,
And burned down my home.
I have fled their tyranny
To become a refugee among you.

© Mohamed Raouf Bachir. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Thomas Aplin. All rights reserved.

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