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poetry Life Jacket

The New York poet Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad offers a soulful Life Jacket to those displaced and forlorn by international tragedies: "remember," she writes, "you were born first/into a province of hope."

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Life Jacket

By Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

When barbed wires carve
unwelcome prints
into your raw palms,
and lawmakers stack votes
like concrete blocks
before your feet, engulfed
by the sterile soil of homelessness,
stay back

Away from tent cities
and the swarm of stations,
piled with the color-gone fabric
of makeshift blankets, shredded shoes
and bones used to rest your head 

And pull,
the blue threads of your chest,
lower the arms you raise
only to surrender
and cloak the numbed body,
the witness of ghosts
hovering in the history
of your birthplace

Make a lifejacket
of your embrace,
and paddle in the blood
of your own channels
where each cell carries
a piece of your breath

until you find it,
the clasp fused with despair,
unfasten, and rip the way
back into the swallow of your heart,
return to that home
forever your host

Unfold your flag there,
in the open quarters, rinse,
your skin still too soft
to bear the ink of
world leaders; remember,
you were born first
into a province of hope,
long before you waited
behind anyone’s borders,
even your own

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad was born and raised in New York.  Her poetry has appeared in The Missing Slate, Passages North, HEArt Journal Online, Pinch Journal, and is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly. She is the poetry editor for Noble / Gas Qtrly, and a Best of the Net, Pushchart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She currently lives in New York where she practices matrimonial law.
This poem was first published in HEArt Online — the nation’s only journal of art & literature devoted to fighting discrimination and promoting social justice.