(from the voice of one whose name still cannot be shared in collaboration)

i taste unfamiliar shores with the desperation of thirst while confusion surrounds my ears and loss bites with each breath of absence

you are not dead yet it feels that may have been kinder than to leave you in my wake as i take the risk you could not face to escape into arms anything but open to receive me and full of hate to crush any spirit still alive in me as i climb into a new world

idiot you screamed as if they’d want you and here it’s hell but your family loves you just keep your head down your hair covered your mouth taped and you’ll be as safe as any of us

and if they catch you running we’re all targets don’t think of yourself you selfish child we need you your father needs you to be strong when he comes home

but he is lost already dead i know but she will never admit not even after all the years a cell could never have held him long without his spirit desperately climbing for freedom would have left the flesh behind in a moment of rebellion

as if his tongue were prepared to shed his peaceful mask and tear his body to the pieces he once described to us as children at the kitchen table

the heart pumps blood

dear daughter my heart breaks for us and no longer freely tastes blood in captivity

the lungs breathe air

my child these lungs no longer serve me in this cell and my escape is impossible except in a voice you’ll someday use to sing my name from a place more free than i will ever be again

our minds speak our thoughts if we let them

small one the mind can never be caged yet here i write one last letter and while you may be small some day you will be a fire whose spark will shine far from here to speak the story of the lost and missing in lands where honey and milk are as sand and blood in our land

it is with your strength i walk into the land and face today with words on my tongue i thought i’d never have to speak but i know they came for you as the moon was setting and we had finally begun to dream

nighttime hallucinations being the only freedom left between the knocks at the door that echoed in the darkness of our hopelessness and were stories not quite believed

a single letter of your loyalty questioned after all those years of teaching the children of the state to be better

so many fighting arms raised for the glory of those who oppress in the name of something holy but who they see as vicious and barbaric demanding sacrifices as bloody as freedom and silences as harsh as any dying cry

yet your name is hidden in the depths of a palace where once you were beaten by unseen hands and lashed by tongues whose questions were knives in the secret places where men give in to their darker impulses and fight battles of delusion with enemies they have conjured behind their masks

i seek asylum

i speak a little english

i seek a safe place

i am not a terrorist

it’s a lie of course i speak no real words of english but their tongue even brokenly is a comfort to their ears and perhaps in my giving them my hopes of a future in their words they won’t hate me so much for the skin those words are wrapped in

and safety here amid guns and words of go home and if you want to pray to mecca it’s that way start walking and you dirty slut show me your hair or i’ll tear that scarf off your head

it’s a myth but the threat was far more real and sticks and stones have already taken far too many of my young bones in the streets where violence was more religion than god ever commanded and legions of soldiers of hate marched on walls of schoolchildren whose only crime was not yet knowing the punishment for questions was disappearance

their words bounce off the fire you kindled in me and while my tears are held back by a dam i had no idea you’d helped me build i walk away concealing the smile i inadvertently summoned from the darkness and know they are the ones truly afraid and they have nothing to fear from me

yet they see me as a walking bomb on their streets when i wish no blood and only a pillow and a bowl full of possible tomorrows

they try to tear me apart with their voices as once your captors did with their hands but i offer my heart as a sacrifice to them and tomorrow perhaps my softness will rub off on their stone hearts and government-impregnated minds

or not but you have taught me patience and someday i will write of this day when i have left escaping boats and immigration lines and quarantine tents far behind and i speak their words and taste their curious bland dishes as if they were my ancestral home

my heart once belonged to another place and they see me as another face to be feared a colorful scar on a pure white canvas

yet in a safety all too relative and adopted home impermanent in all but my most lucid dreams i take refuge in a place whose arms once reached out to hold a daughter whose father no longer could do more than write lyrics of rebellion from beyond the grave

i am here

i am safe

it’s a lie but please father thank them for me

they no longer hear my words in the noise of their own screaming fear and your whispers are the only strength i have left they might understand