This poem was written by someone who works with refugees and wanted to help capture their stories. The original posting can be found at the author’s blog: http://inotherwordspoetry.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/if-only-the-refugee/
If only, the refugee
If only one word stood out
If only I knew the switch
Turned on the light
And the knob turned down the heat.
If only I couldn’t read in the eyes of my neighbor
Hesitation, uncertainty, even fear.
If only I knew the tone you used
That here a handshake wasn’t rude
Or a left hand wasn’t dirty
That if a door says ‘pull’
You have to turn the handle first,
And if the light is green
That it’s okay to move.
If only the yellow paper in my hand
Could mean something
If only I could connect
The picture to the symbol.
Sometimes I’m afraid to answer the door
Or just can’t sign my name to something
though you tell me it’s okay.
If only, I didn’t stand tongue-tied
Longing to help you understand
As I used to long for:
If only I could lift the weight of inability
To express my relief, my sadness
To help you understand why it’s important to remember
And why I’m afraid that I’ll forget
If only – then maybe I wouldn’t want to leave for…home?
Whatever home the camp could be to me
At least I know the rules and the life
At least there was familiarity and family
then I think I could try to stand to stay.