To Hassan

by
November 2020, no. 426

To Hassan

by
November 2020, no. 426

And to the other men from Afghanistan,
and Iran and Iraq, who prepared a feast for me
one midday, years ago on my way to work,
laid the clean sheet smooth
on the worn carpet of the furnitureless house,
placed dishes of spiced rice and chickpeas,
and slid a plate towards me –
there were not enough plates
to go around – and with upturned palms
urged me to eat first,
I want to thank you and say
I’ll always remember that meal,
your hospitality and kindness,
the cool of the empty room
as I stepped off the busy street
and out of the sun to join you
for what I thought would be
a glass of black tea.
I want to say sorry though
that I left too soon,
that I let my job call me away.
I’m sorry, Hassan,
that by the time I returned with the paper
and pencils and tubes of paint you needed,
the house was boarded up,
you’d been moved on; I’m sorry to say
I’ve forgotten your friends’ names;
I’m sorry that my imagination
could barely grasp that deep water
and fearful waves could look like hope,
most of all I’m sorry for my ignorance
that statelessness in this country
might also look like the view
from a small boat on a hostile ocean,
except with no coast to train the eye to.

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