how to get everything you ever wanted

Invent a war.
Something bloody and fratricidal.
Lose an uncle to barrel bombs
a brother to secret police.

Three years in, flee.
Pack only what you can carry:
clothes, smartphone, children, cash.
Slip away at night, in silence.

Take your leave of the flat, bakery, office,
rubble-filled streets where the kids once ran
shell of the cafe where old men
drank qahwa, played sheesh beesh.

Cross a border to camps, to life on hold.
Everyone knows someone who’s gone
before them, dreaming of better.
Here there is only the absence of war.
It’s not enough.

Moving is what you do.
Railway tracks, verges, fields.
Rest in olive groves, wake in orchards.
One foot in front of the other
over and over and over.

The world is cold-eyed border guards
sandwiches and blankets.
You never know what is coming.
One day, open hand. Another, fist.

You learn the words you need
in a new language.
Arbeit. Ja. Nein. Thank you. Please.
The smile that shows you know to be grateful.

Evenings you sit at the kitchen table
talk to friends in cities far away
about places that have gone
about old men who drank qahwa
played sheesh beesh.

At night you dream of rubble, and of home.

© Steve Pottinger 20 Dec 2015

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