the finish line

By Omar Sakr | 30 Nov 15
Vincepal Out/Flickr

For a man with no home, there is no word for return – Mark Macrossan

Running, as a form of exercise, can be fun
for a time: wind whipping, houses blurring,
legs pumping, breaths torn free as your body
hurtles through space, arrow-sent so fast
you won’t hear so much as a bow-twang.
Even marathon runners can’t sustain it.
The heart is willing but unable to take
such punishment—it convulses in you,
every beat a rejection of failure. Running
as a means of survival is never enjoyable.
The wind is a scream is a scream
and so is everything else.

It doesn’t matter

what you’re running from; the language
of the gun gone rife, a constant ballet
of bullets; the strangeness of a home
turned into a prison, a stranglehold
of normality no one else can see
is choking the light out of you; an end
to what you thought you knew, like
we’re all born equal or refugees are
welcome. We welcome only those
who are well come: acceptable arrivals
that don’t make us question
our place or recall the refugee story
is humanity’s story.

We are all refugees

only some of our refuges graduated into
homes, and no one appreciates being
reminded that our graduation isn’t permanent,
that progress can regress at any time,
that cement and sand have a lot in common
and the ground can yield beneath us whenever
it chooses. Refugees know this, are familiar
with the unimaginable becoming reality,
with the earth erupting beneath them.

Refugees are always

running, unsure

if they’re treading water sand or cement—
even while swimming, they are still running;
while crawling beneath razor wire unrolled
over border lines, they are running; drowning,
running, climbing, running, sitting, running,
dreaming, running, jailed, running, collapsed,
running, begging, running, always, always,
running. Never still. Distances are meaningless
when no one lets you stop. Every day you try
again to escape your skin, the history
of violence chasing it.

Every day you pray

the uncertainty will end, knowing there are limits
to what a body can take; there are only so many times
you can watch a finish line erased in front of your eyes
and have your feet set to running, running, running
before even your tireless heart ceases and you wish,
again, that you were not part of this race.