Refugiados

I never thought to go so far afield.
I'm foreign on this earth,
under the same spangled and bannered night,
but with only the tiny solitary lights
of fireflies, like fleeting messages
from stars; otherwise
silence.

See the row of latrines
standing like sentries in the starlight,
the long pale barracks
in the bottom of the valley --
fingers pointing to the North
from where the campesinos came.
Remember Abraham?

One night he gazed
into these same heavens
counting his countless offspring
who would be strangers
in a country not their own.
How far we all are from home.

These sojourners arrived from outside the camp,
barefoot, carrying their small bundles,
thin as reeds, fleeing
from another pharaoh.
Bayonets and bombs replace bow and arrow,
but faces tight with silent sorrow
haven't changed.

We brought Ilias and Maria maiz;
now she pats and slaps the dough
beneath the fading stars.
Darkness hovers still upon the camp
when suddenly the radio alarm
fills the thin chill air
with strains of Lennon singing
"Imagine if there were no wars."

A dog barks. A child cries.
Man shadows appear and disappear.
They say around the stove
without a miracle of God, they never will
go home. And with the gentle rising
of the sun, the realization comes:
indeed who is not
a refugee?

Gretchen Sousa was a missionary for five years in Mexico and Central America. She lived in California when this poem appeared.

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