For Someday You May Be A Refugee

Monday, August 10, 2015

I met two young Iraqis who had escaped ISIS from Mosul and made their way to Istanbul. Both were civil engineers, and one of them even had his own company in Mosul. The other's parents still lived in Mosul, but they feared that if they left, their house would also be taken away. ISIS had taken everything away from them—from the one, his company and car, and from the other, his family.

In any case, neither could go back to Mosul for as far in the future they could see. One of them was on a one-way street to hope, expecting to take a boat to Greece, and then a treacherous journey overland through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and finally to Belgium. “Why Belgique?” as he calls it. “Because I have an uncle there.” The other didn’t want anything to do with “Europa,” as he called it. He would have liked to travel as a free person, but his thoughts and soul were imprisoned in Mosul, his home.

I too am traveling around the world, but as I worry about my train tickets and flights, and my AirBnBs, I try but can’t even fathom the life of folks such as these two, displaced from their lives for no good reason. Suddenly, open science, data and copyright seem so trivial, and all I can do is to go over and over the heart-wrenching words from Tony Kushner’s It’s An Undoing World:

By the time we’re done with dancing,
elsewhere darling you’ll be glancing
and the night’s a river-torrent tearing us apart.

Merely melody entwined us,
easily the ties that bind us
break in fibrillations of the heart.

Don’t cry out or cling in terror
darling that’s a fatal error
clinging to a somebody you thought you knew was yours.

Dispossession by attrition
is a permanent condition
that the wretched modern world endures.

You drift away, you’re carried by a stream.
refugee a wanderer you roam;
you lose your way, so it will come to seem:
no place in particular is home.

You glance away, your house has disappeared,
the sweater you’ve been knitting has unpurled.
you live adrift, and everything you feared
comes to you in this undoing world.

Copper-plated, nailed together,
buffeted by ocean weather
stands the Queen of Exiles and our mother she may be.

Hollow-breasted broken-hearted
watching for her dear departed
for her children cast upon the sea.

At her back the great idyllic
land of justice for exilic
peoples ponders making justice private property.

Darling never dream another
woman might have been your mother
someday you may be a refugee.

A refugee, who’s running from the wars,
hiding from the fire-bombs they’re hurled;
eternally a person out-of-doors,
desperate in this undoing world.

Mother for your derelicted
children from your womb evicted
grant us shelter harbor solace safety, let us in!

Let us tell you where we travelled
how our hopes our lives unravelled
how unwelcome everywhere we’ve been.