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poetry Where? Where Are You Going?

"Even if the sea does not swallow you," writes the poet Esther Kamkar (herself a migrant to North America) about the experience of migration, "your heart will be broken."

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Where?  Where Are You Going?

By Esther Kamkar

Don’t leave your home.

Don’t cross thresholds and borders.

The boats are bottomless.

Even if the sea does not swallow you

and you find dry land,

your heart will be broken.

You thought the softness

of your flesh would protect you.

You’ll be lost in the crowd of foreigners.

You’ll be no one, a number

in their eyes, cool with mistrust.

Your high cheekbones won’t remind

anyone of your grandmother’s

and your name stripped of its meaning,

pebbles on the tongues of strangers.

You’ll lose your ground.

Grammar of the new language will riddle

your bones, hipbones and spine

won’t align to sit on earth.

You’ll long for the scent of jasmine and bread.

You’ll miss the gold fish in the garden.

You’ll forget the names of trees and flowers.

You’ll lose the key to your house.

There is no refuge, no sanctuary.

The boats are bottomless, vessels

to extermination center of the sea.

Stay where you are,

where you know the color of the hills

in winter, spring, summer and fall.

Esther Kamkar lives in northern California. Of her poetry, she writes: “What was is over with and what is, the poems tell us.” See more at