The Common Good
February 2011

As A Second Language

by Noel Julnes-Dehner | February 2011

My husband, he die
without water in desert.
Walking Saudi Arabia --
no jobs in Yemen
for policemen
from Somalia.

My husband, he die
without water in desert.
Walking Saudi Arabia --
no jobs in Yemen
for policemen
from Somalia.

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My tongue struggles
against my teeth to shape
these harsh English sounds
so unlike the sibilance of Arabic.

Government kill
my country. Airplane,
bombs. We run
to Ethiopia, then Yemen.
We have nothing,
nothing but Allah.

But I wish no language
could describe
scavenging
like unclean dogs
in refugee camps
with no hospital,
my daughter dying,
my husband gone.
My father, a lawyer,
kidnapped
with my brother
by soldiers.
Allah, where
is your mercy?

My two sons,
no schools.
Camp people talk to me,
I sign papers, fly America,
English class.

If I learn the vocabulary
for those years, will my ghosts
follow me here? Oh, Allah!

Noel Julnes-Dehner, an Episcopal priest in southern Ohio, is a documentary writer. Her current work is The Right Track, about formerly incarcerated women and men re-entering society.

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