Monthly Archives: April 2017

Mustafa, the Gravedigger

Late in the afternoon
when the wind picked up,
the sky darkened.
The people on the streets
rushed home.

On the field was Mustafa, an Egyptian volunteer translator
in Lesbos, turned gravedigger; he rose up
to a burning duty: to offer a dignified burial
to his fellow humans.

After bodies piled on the shores of Greece,
Mustafa decided to bury dead refugees,
Syrians and others. To honor
their decomposing bodies
and let them rest in peace.

Today he buried two women
and a seven-year-old boy.
Laying down the body of a child hits him hardest.

The last person to touch this boy’s body
before trusting him to earth
in this foreign land
is a brother in faith, a student migrant
who managed to cross
the cold-hearted Mediterranean
safely to Greece.

After the boy was laid in his grave,
he was greeted from the grave next to his
by an old Greek lady.
He made an effort to introduce himself:
Sami is my name, and this is Leila next to me.
She is not my mother.

Last time I saw my mother was
the night the planes bombed Aleppo.
She trusted me to her cousin, my aunt.
I cried that night and my mom kissed me,
and promised to catch up once we reached Greece.

Syria is my country. The day I was born
the sun was high, and my father the owner
of a successful sweetshop.

Before the war and at school,
my teacher spoke often of a Spring—
Arab and splendid. I imagined green fields,
butterflies, happy children, and cookies.

I imagined our school
with wide windows, big backyards,
and lots of crayons of various colors.
I love to draw happy faces, and birds.

But the war was ordered:
many were killed, displaced,
their lives suspended.

Nothing has changed then, the woman on his right said.
I have lived through two devastating wars.
Futile murder, savage
and inhuman; the systematic killing
of innocent people— being Jewish was their crime.
It left shame on our humanity.

In the name of something or other,
our continent killed 60 million.
In the name of something abstract,
humans take away
the most concrete thing of all: precious life.

I see you are tired. It must have been a rough trip.
You need some sleep. Your mom will find you.
I know that because mothers keep their promises.
My name is Maria, and I wish you a very good night, my dear Sami.


Inch Closer

I swear to each strand of your hair,

I will inch closer

each time I deliver a light kiss.

For that is the only letter I can write

with courage and humility.




Meta-4 Reading this collection of poems is like going for a hike in a rich and diverse terrain, with occasional rare sighting of exotic birds with their blue plumes, that share their hopeful songs, and observe you in silence, attentively.

During this hike, you will see a full spectrum of the four seasons. It will rain until you are soaked, then the sunshine will come unannounced; high and splendid, the sun will submerge you, guide you, and warm every inch of your skin.

Clothes are optional. Recreational swims are welcome.