Artwork by Art AI Gallery
No Safe Shelter
The restaurant table is less than my mother's umbrella
not only because the umbrella covers my face
but because it shelters under a wide-open sky
where people walk with purpose, unlike a bar
where eyes wander while searching for something to say
My eyes flick from face to face, as I run my fingers down
the seam of my girlfriend's jeans under the table and imagine
how the two sides of the fabric are similar, like two sides of the Naf river,
where the roads are worn by feet seeking shelter, by boats dragged on and offshore.
I find her hand, clutch it as tightly as my mother held me when she said we were going to America.
The first time my home disappeared, crossing border seemed like intimate safety
and even roads made of mud, even the rain that tapped on shelters
with plastic roofs, even the makeshift tents were sufficient,
until the days slipped by and the worry on my mother's
face made me realize I was still without a home.
All this I missed in a town near a city called Milwaukee, myself renamed Mary,
which cannot counteract the newly earned headscarf
hooding my face or English struggling to fall from my tongue.
My mother's joy heals me while crowded neighborhood
bruises me with new words, customs, and talk of the future.
I tried not to be ungrateful, when my girlfriend's family
offered me shelter at sixteen. Tried not wonder how much it would cost
to cover the living room to match my mother's favorite color.
Praying someday I would recover more than disappointment from her face,
her former umbrella,
a few clothes,
the prayer she shouted out the door when I last saw her.
And now, we are sitting in a booth at a bar
where two other women across from us are kissing,
but I am holding my girlfriend's hand under the table.
At night she sleeps against my arm thinking the cat,
the house, and the love is permanent,
and I wonder if it is just another fragile shelter.