Home is just one of the things a refugee loses in David Bergman’s moving poem.
The Man Who Sought Asylum
He came from a village where there is no village.
He came from a large family
but now there is left only an uncle
and a few chattering children.
He once spoke the local dialect
with a fluency that was renowned
in the village that no longer exists,
but now there is no one remaining
who can answer his jokes and riddles.
When do you leave your home?
While you still have a home to leave
or later when it is rubble?
Is it before the soldiers—if they are soldiers?—
come with their rifles or after
they have left you with perhaps one good eye?
The man who sought asylum
walked in the direction of quiet
where he met up with other quiet people
who raised their voices but only to the sky
because it would not bother to answer back.
Some of them spoke of a border
and beyond that another border
and still more borders beyond that
after which they might come to a village
that was still a village,
but he didn’t believe a word of it.
All his life he had heard of only one border
that drew closer with every step.
Some days he thought he could smell it
and it was as sweet and sickening as the sea.
Read more of David Bergman’s poetry.
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