The translator says: Let’s turn to “A Litany for Survival.”
We’ll say it first in Dari. Then English. Altogether. Ready?
Did I mention that I’m over my head?
Or perhaps, my head continues to fly about but my spine has folded in.
When did this accordion behavior begin?
Was it when we had chairs for fifteen and twenty-five came, not counting the children?
Or was it when I passed around an attendance sheet that came back with six signatures? Fear buried their pens.
Was it after we read a haiku and a father said, how can we write pretty poems,
our lives are not pretty, as his three-year-old daughter drew on her arm
with a purple marker?
Or was it when I couldn’t outline the basic shape of Afghanistan on the board?
Someone came up, drew his country and all the ones that touch it.
Was it when shutters we opened so the small room could breathe kept banging, each time pulling people from their chairs?
An older man rose and gently closed the shutters.
Or was it when a teenager clutched her friend, sandwiched between men
like fish, said she liked the poem about memories and backpacks, wished it was in Somali. I said, me too.
Or was it when a father explained his family receives 300 euro each month.
If they’re granted asylum, that will end after six months.
Or was it when I was sure two teens who stared into their phones were there for the free bus tickets until they recited brilliant poems in Dari and English?
They wrote them with google translator.
What about the seven-year-old who answered all my questions in English before the adults, their eyes stuck on the table.
The table floating with cherry pits left by the four-year-olds.