Comfort Fear

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

with hunger,


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

she knits.

I can’t let myself begin

to imagine us whole.

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