Eugene, Oregon, 4 February 2017
I remember it in a vague haze, as the memory of a book I read long ago.
Our life before, when this city was a gleaming place and my belly was always full.
She knit for hours every night.
Before the bombs.
Before the terror.
She knit even through the year we spent listening to the city
demolished as we laid awake in our bed
neighborhood by neighborhood.
Until her stash of yarn dwindled.
Wondering when our turn would come.
Those nights, she knit a last warm sweater, each stitch
some of the Fear.
She knit before gathering her courage
price gouged life preservers
her warm sweater
and our last reserves
to escape into the frigid swells of salt
death only to realize:
The life vests do not float.
Before, she knit every night,
masterfully guiding loose yarn over fingers and needles
intricate patterns forming
from the thin strands
before our eyes. Magic.
Before the coast guard,
the border guard,
the angrymob gathered
babbling hate incomprehensible
restive tumult masking
their own Fear.
Before she had to leave the sweater
drenched and useless by the side of the road
piled up with so many hopes.
Before the barbed wire
surrounded endless camps, miles of tents
stretched out in the floodlit night.
Before, even, the swelling promise of protest that began it all.
The brief moment of joy in giving voice
to long silent feelings
first quiet, then raising to raucous cacophony in the streets.
Before the tanks.
Before the soldiers.
I remember a time before the everpresent mud, and in it she is always knitting.
Today, after a month in this camp
no electricity or shower
only a stinking hole to shit in
the children’s eyes now dry for months,
all tears having been exhausted
along with everything else.
Everyone’s face stretched tight
No one left to trust.
I found a miracle.
A long smooth dowel.
Maybe the only unburned piece of wood for miles.
I shaped it into two needles,
along with gathered scraps of dirty fabric
to disassemble for their yarn
I made a gift.
Tonight, lit by the constant humming floodlights
I can’t let myself begin
to imagine us whole.