‘Without Refugees?’ a poem by Zak van Buren

Without Refugees?

Some of my friends are confused by why so many people,

who live in this city,

are ok with taking in refugees,


for starters,

refugees are the only newcomers who might actually -lower- our rents…


but seriously, here’s the deal — →

without refugees?

our pizza? thick and shitty.

our writers? not as witty,

our MC’s? less than flow-y.

our bagels? bland and doughy.

no more monks in saffron robes.

no tai chi in silent pose.

no drains unclogged. no lights turned on.

without refugees? our dim-sum? quiet, calm.

our b-girls? not the bomb.

our footy clubs? lacking strikers.

our mets and yanks? lacking strikeouts.

no kool herc, so no hip hop.

no polio cure, no jonas salk.

no afro-cuban sweaty nights.

no taxi drivers running lights.

without refugees?

our roti? not as spicy.

our shirts fit? not as nicely.

our skyline? short as hell.

our jazz? flat as shelves.

no more rhapsodies in blue.

no physicists, unveiling truths.

no haitian prodigy’s art on walls.

no far flung trinkets sold in stalls.

Without refugees?

our peking duck? in-authentic.

our chess masters? not dread-headed.

our lovers, friends? never met.

our language? less direct.

no jokes told, in irish brogue.

no escaping mao zedong.

no patient nanny’s helping hand.

no brave defenders of this land.

without refugees?

our harbor statue? far less seen.

our humor? less obscene.

our men and women? less exotic.

our beats? less hypnotic.

no taco carts in red hook park.

no russian steam to sweat it out.

no hot-pots to gather ‘round.

no future icons, underground.

without refugees?

my grandfather? in a ditch.

my grandmother? same as him.

my family tree? dead in ground.

my mom and I? not around.

no sam and frank, from tul’chyn.

no fruit cart, on brooklyn street.

no seamstress wife in factory,

no night school, or degree,

no ludlow girl, meets soho boy.

no blue eyed jew, loves brown eyed goy.

no dancing in, the space above,

no wedding day in soho loft,

no sister, with, hebrew name,

no brother, for, her to bathe,

no left for dead, child soldiers,

no more of us, mixed up mongrels,

without refugees?

your hometown? not really killin’ it.

your hometown? nobody’s visitin’.

your hometown? mo-no-tone.

your hometown? youth leave in droves.

yes, your ample parking, is attractive

yes,fear-mongers have you distracted,

yes, I know, your family worked hard too,

yeah, so, how ‘bout we do us, and you do you.

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