September 12, 2017

Bola Opaleke

HOME THAT WOULD NOT LET US STAY

after Tiana Clark’s “Equilibrium”

After thirty years
I finally managed
to figure out
what home means
to a refugee. Plume
the flickering ash
around the reality
of waking up at dawn
to a new statute
asking me to name
every line on
my thickening palms.
The landlord is
the god I see
at night. I pray
to him for permission
to call his house home.
When he touches
my daughter where no man
should touch
her, I pull the nonplussed girl
by the ear
and warn her to use
the kitchen
door henceforth. Cutting
cantaloupes,
the sight of policemen
coming
towards my door
makes the fruit bleed
my dark blood,
but they have not come
to ask why I cut
myself, they have come
to ask if I wasn’t
a terrorist to bomb
innocent neighbors
in no distant future.
I would tend to
my bloody finger later,
asking where
my appetite has gone.
I know home was
where death ambushed
my destiny,
I know it should be
where the sun rills in
with a smile,
not climbs arrogantly
upon my vertebrae,
not make rent the tears
that must not
dry up before
the next election.
My weakened muscles
purr at the veins
delivering gas to
my heart that
would not stop
pounding. Each time
someone tries to
extinguish the fire
of political bigotry,
the rotten air
runnels through,
feeding oil
to the rampaging
flame. I look out
through the
basement window,
my eyes traversing oceans
and mountains calling home, waiting
for something beautifully naked
to crawl up ashore and say stay here.

from Poets Respond
September 12, 2017

[download audio]

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Bola Opaleke: “This poem is for ‘Dreamers’ who grow up knowing America as their only home. The POTUS plan to end DACA is one that sends a spear through the heart. It calls for a reflection on how politicians often ignore human frailty and human fragility in their everyday decisions.” (twitter)

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