Slender hopes arrive
in multitudes, in robes of
tattered burlap torn from
sacks of plundered aid.
The tips of assegais score
puncture marks across our
backs, I feel their sting,
the runnels of our drying
blood like camouflage,
like crimson prison bars
proclaim, behold
the stateless ones!

I do not lead.
I do not fall

What I cradle in
these sticks of arms
whose muscles I once
wasted by the fruitless
toil of a scratching endless
in a dirt that wasn’t mine
requires me to stand
amidst and walk within
a blinding light.

With every press
of sole to crumbling
ground, my nation group
and I, we listen less to
replication of an infant’s
cry; those snaking words
that rattle-hiss of lust
and tragedy, they feed
like manna now and then
a sickly sweet, but
give no rise.

Scarcely do we
glance or taste, so
close we are.

The land that promises
a sea that swells, an air
that clears, these are the signs
we hear and heed, the belly
of the child resting near my
heart contains the fire—Me?
I’m nothing but a refugee,
a void assembled mostly
in the center of
a wandering holy ghost.


© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image of the assegai tree
from jenesaisquoiwoodworking.com