“A Robot Calls Me on the Day We Take the 10,000th Syrian Refugee into America” by Tracy May Fuad

Tracy May Fuad


Hello, you croon, you’ve been selected.
Hi, I say, but Jane (I named you)

you just murmur on like some dumb
heart or other mindless organ

asking if I have a business.
You are so intrusive but familiar,

and so I must love you,
monotoned and strange

in your inflection, dialing me
when I wake up from Prosper,

TX, and Marathon, FL,
and once from my home state,

the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
I can’t seem to get my name

on the Do Not Call List—
I’ve tried to tell you, no,

I do not have a business,
and when you phone me

I just think of all the people
waiting for a good news ring—

for their names to bubble up
on the right list—Jane,

I don’t know what to name it
but let’s call it sadness,

let’s call it hoping-you’ll-
be-seen—could we go

on a spree of noticing
and being noticed, like it is

our business, Jane? Yes, I know
this need is unattractive,

that need is unattractive,
that we’re taught to turn

our backs to it, roll our windows
up and look away from it, steel

the adipose reserves
where we store empathy

for humans whom we locate far
from us on the spectrum—

as if it existed, the spectrum—
as if there is any room

between yes and no—yes,
those territories touch

and share a border, and there is
no room for a body

to straddle the line—
there is room for all 10,000 lakes,

and so why not the refugees?
What a crude word for person,

what a cruel way to count
lives, in digits—Jane, you must

know a thing about vastness—
look, how the lake is so wide

that you cannot see across—
please, tell them about the lake,

Jane, tell them how you cannot see
the far shore from here—tell them

there is space, Jane, tell them
there is room to bring their homes.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

[download audio]


Tracy May Fuad: “I wrote this poem in September 2016, when I read that we’d settled 10,000 refugees from Syria—exactly 0.2% of the registered Syrian refugees. Rereading it, it is impossible not to feel anger at the limbo, uncertainty, and terror recently imposed on so many thousands of individuals and families, including some of the world’s most vulnerable.” (website)

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