Lauren Camp

Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen


Another bent prayer for we who were sent away,
who can’t arrive.
The sun quiets and day rethinks dusk.
Hawks keep rising next to night.
We are the other, taken loose to obedience.
We are past tense, we are words
no one can say. We are evidence
and you may think you can unname the conspicuous
but we stand in our khamiis,
our jalabiya, in our jeans and our t-shirts embroidered
with American logos for sneakers and bands.
The sky, cloudless now,
has thrown its corners over the plane.
The wheels make their wide decisions
about who will live where.
The wheels rush forward, leave the practical earth.
We watch each breeze smooth to the next,
and feel blown, inhabited with separation.
The headlights straight out and the tight air
of the plane. Lifting, climbing without apology
over land lazy as blood.
The moon hurts our eyes.
Without looking down,
we know there is nowhere to be.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I grew up with a strong core of connection to my Iraqi heritage, though I knew little about it. I have spent years imagining my father’s childhood in Baghdad. Because he has maintained a silence around that part of his identity, I had to keep leaning into unusual sources: music, recipes, grainy photos, other people’s historical accounts, the events that changed the arrangement and peace within the country. The result of this research became my third collection, One Hundred Hungers. Since the Trump Administration enacted its travel ban, I am again scribbling poems about the Middle East. Everything I know about empathy comes from digging out a single story, shaping it, and offering it. Moving through perspectives, not all mine, I investigate our value as individuals, and as part of a collective whole.

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