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Lisa MullenneauxMay 17, 2022

"You shall leave behind all you love most,
and that shall be the arrow
the bow of exile shoots first."

"Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta
piu caramente; e questo e quello strale
che l’arco de lo essilio pria saetta."

--Dante, Paradiso, canto XVII, lines 55-57

“Do you see me?” Adie asks me,
“because no one else does.”
We exist only for each other,
Syria to Italy to Denmark, where
we can never get warm enough
in our semi-heated rooms—sink,
shared toilet in the hallway,
meals an extra 500 kroner a week.

Soon I will be fish-belly white
like my grandfather in Damascus, who
became thinner and paler until
his lips were cracks, his skin icy,
his scalp hairless, and his wrists
like a gull’s broken wings.

I had your picture in my wallet,
Fatim. Seeing it reminded me
of our old life, but they took it
in Lampedusa. I begged them:
“Keep the money. Just give me
the photos of my family.”

One day I will return to that place
and find what they took.
There was no need:
we had already lost so much.
Jamal didn’t make the crossing.
Soaked with seawater and gasoline,
his skin peeled off, his screams
nearly as loud as the planes
bringing tourists to the beach.

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