Exile, Edge

We walked uphill on a razor-edge.
We walked without knowing where we were going

or when we would arrive. Each of us carried something:
a bundle, a bag, a sack of broken dreams, a key

tucked close to the heart. My little one carried his future
on his back. I wept when I saw how insubstantial it was.

We walked out of our lives into an empty space,
through sun and rain, through dark and light,

carrying little, carrying everything. We walked into the unknown
along a blade of hope. The way was slippery, red-streaked.

We hardly noticed. There would be time later for the staunching
of wounds, for grieving what could not be healed.

It was difficult keeping our balance: emptiness yawned
on either side. But we had no choice. The way was sharp,

the horizon was empty, the chasm threatened to engulf us.
The past was inside of us, the future on our backs, the present

teetered on the abyss. Balancing is a trick, we told the children.
Breathe carefully. Don’t look up, don’t look down,

don’t let your gaze waver. But our feet are bleeding, they protested.
Yes, we replied. Hoist your bundle, look straight ahead, walk.



(after the artwork “Syrian Exile,” by Moustafa Jacoub)




Lisa Suhair Majaj is author of Geographies of Light (winner, Del Sol Press Poetry Prize), and co-editor of three essay collections on international women writers. Her poetry appears in the upcoming exhibition Aftermath: The Fallout of War—America & the Middle East (Harn Museum of Art). She lives in Cyprus.


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