(In deep reverence to the Syrian refugees, January 2016)
Our driver lifts his hands from the wheel to point out a group
of refugees walking along the road in the warm night.
“Did you see them?” His voice is rough and sad.
“Every night a hundred more land on our shores in Turkish rafts.
Mostly they come from Syria. They’re walking to Mytilini hoping
to cross to Athens. And then? They don’t know. Our own children
are leaving Lesvos—here there are no jobs. The EU has Greece
by the throat. What can we do? There is nothing we can do.
And still they come, every night they come.”
They walk in clusters of 20 or 30 along the road’s shoulder. Hum of their talk
as we pass. A woman turns to a man; her soft laughter
strums the dark.
July’s full metallic moon spangles their headscarves and hoodies,
the sable heads of small children carried in their arms.
How dark their joy!
Because of the bottomless sea.
Because landfall was cushioned with smooth pebbles.
Because the road rises to meet their feet.
Because they walk in the open with sons and daughters and brothers.
Because they have honey and figs in their packs to feed the children.
Because their neighbors are corpses.
Because bombs whistle as they fall.
Because all praise belongs to Allah.
Because blood darkens outside the body.
Because of Christ nailed on the cross in roadside shrines.
Because of the viper coiled in the dark of the solar plexus.
Each dawn two or three innkeepers greet the refugees with food and water.
“I’m sorry,” a woman exhales as she climbs off the raft.
“We don’t need anything,” a man answers. “—only your prayers.”
Because of the pile of life vests, plastic bottles, a child’s pink inner tube
abandoned on the shore. Because the dingy is already deflating.
Young men call out Hello (not Yassou) as we pass on the road by the sea.
They can tell by my walk, my claim on ground and air
I come from America.
Because there is no safe harbor. Because we are all on our way.
Sun melts the back of my heart as I climb the olive-studded hill to the yoga hall.
Yoga mats float melodically on the polished floor.
Racket of mating cicadas just outside the window—pushed in on a breeze,
the ribbons of my teacher’s voice come undone.
Late in the day I bob in the sea, instinctively keeping clear of the channel
where Turkish rafts, sagging with human cargo, cross the dark water.
Sun sinks low in the ancient pine winging between the sea and my balcony.
Trio of crows swoop to the field where eight goats graze.
I dream of the sea on its soft wheels rolling towards us.
Because birds puncture the dark with their bright song.
Because sky ricochets off the Aegean.
Mid-afternoon when I walk into town I pass a group of refugees sprawled
on the ground at the bus stop under an awning. Now it’s too hot
and they are too weary to smile.