I was raised by a strong woman passionate about languages, writing stories and poetry. My mom was an Algerian who went to Syria to study Arabic literature and then met my dad. She used to celebrate my successes and pushed me to write all the time. This is my first attempt to write a poem in English. It’s about what it means to be a refugee. This poem is inspired by Maya Angelou and dedicated to my mom, who died on the 27th of December 2021. Since fleeing Syria in 2016, I have been unable to see or hug her before she died. This is also dedicated to all those displaced on World Refugee Day. Houda Fansa Jawadi
Smiling and crying but relieved,
Unbelievable arrive at ports of havens indeed,
Watching every ounce of water, every ray of sun,
and trapped dreams inside us to the world we released
Am I real? Am I still alive, you ask?
Looking around, wearing the courageous mask
Raising your head and voice higher than usual.
Facing problems by drinking from the magical flask.
You ask what ingredients are in this flask of magic
I say nothing but ordinary and classic,
Patience, patience, patience,
And vast quantities of panic.
Panic, fear, anxiety and trauma
Others see us as queens of drama
They don’t know what uprooting means
That this can happen to anybody, and as a Karma.
Karma happens when you look down on refugees,
Seeing them as aliens, others and sources of poverty.
Uncivilised, uneducated and a mockery.
But let me tell you, we carry inside us generosity, humanity and honesty.
What does restarting entail? Changing our tongues,
As language creates high walls that prevent us to belong.
Different air so we change our lungs
Striving to settle down, forgetting that we ever were young.
Yes, we were young and peaceful in our previous life,
But then greed, oppression, and discrimination stabbed us with a knife.
When a leader permitted detentions, torture and killings
Unleashing his monstrous army to cause strife.
Escaping death, tyranny, and patriarchy shouldn’t be a surprise
It’s a fundamental right to survive and create new ties.
Telling our stories of refuge and debunking the lies is a must, where helping others feels like a prize.
And as Maya Angelou said
“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Houda Fansa Jawadi is a Syrian Urban Storyteller, living in the UK and part of The Refugee Journalism Project.
Main Image by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplashed