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Refugee, a prose poem

In my dreams I cannot climb the metal ladder to the divinely white diving board overlooking the Euphrates, or reach my parents and uncles who stare down at me from atop a mahogany spiral staircase, like the type you see in your Victorian period pieces, or run when men in black outpace me. My mind, which has not been blessed with a good night’s sleep for months, assigns the heaviness of antiquity, now rubble, to my limbs.

In competing dreams my arms are stuck above my shoulders, elbows turning my appendages into sideways Vs, more-or-less signs, one pointing left the other right, as if there were places to go. As if things added up. I cannot lift my arms over my head to remove my robe. A mass of fabric has settled on my face like a clay mask that gets itchy as it dries. I am an iron pretzel of flesh and joints, long sleeves, and seams. I break a sweat tugging at myself, I cannot see the bed I shared with my husband, or the wool carpet beneath my feet, although my toes, doing a high-wire balancing act in the wake of my torso’s paralysis, can feel the fibers.

If I could I would use screams to rip through the seams, even if I had to re-sew them in the morning to reappear a proper woman. Disarray. Order. Neither option helps me move. It doesn’t matter.

We reached European borders weeks ago, how long ago I’ve lost count, a calendar is the least of our worries. Our mouths dry in the sun, our useless shoes cry inshallah in the rain, my daughter’s latest vocabulary word is patrolman. We are motionless, backward, forward, it doesn’t matter.

In my mind I am stone. To you I am a refugee. It doesn’t matter.