|From Louisville to Syracuse, From William Ruei to AJ Anyek|
The Opus Continues
Since then, I've continued to advocate for the stories of refugees worldwide, especially those granted asylum in the Western world.
I began writing about refugee relocation stories as a Louisville Writing Project Fellow in 2002. In 2013, and a dissertation later, I met Emmanuel Jal in Birmingham, Alabama - an event that changed my life forever. I was presenting at the Urban Sites conference when I learned he was performing for the Civil Rights Institute. I'm sure it was non-monumental for him, but the experience was inspirational for me. The Great Whatever gave us an evening to talk and think together and I was able to give him a copy of Trina Paulu's Hope For The Flowers.
I began the following poem at the 2012 Louisville Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute. Twelve years later, The Good Lie debuts in American theaters. We shall see how accurate Hollywood tells the relocation story. Either way, I'm proud of Emmanuel Jal and look forward to seeing him on the big screen this weekend. I anxiously await the film.
In my celebration of #OurNWP and the National Writing Project's 40th Anniversary, I offer this throwback to him, LWP XXI (from my notebook), and James Kuch Mangui. The narratives are still being written. The journey will always continue....
Song For The Lost Boys, Opus One
(in memory of James Kuch Mangui)i.
arriving, un-read, un-white and blue...
|William and Martin, Preparing a traditional meal|
from a journey of sandy solitude,
from travel, to unravel
a syncopation of history,
blistery, calloused, yet alive...
...the drive arrives without wheels
nor temperate tears
or stolen years
of boyish fears,
that are driven forward,
only trusting there’s
a reason to hope....
an irish kennally once said,
i love / to believe / in hope
and this dope repeats him,
before I’m six feet under,
living alive as I do on this page.
we run onto the scene, barefoot and jeweled
ruled by the moment of our dance,
|Lost Boys Scholarship recipients,|
this dance that by chance
was created by an intellectual drum,
a jihad of Dinka,
thumbprinting their way into a sudanese soul.
we run, fast, onto the empty scene, barefoot,
and nude, yet jeweled alive...
thumprinting our feet into the sudanese sand...
marking our world with permanent possibility,
initiated with scars to prove that we’re men,
but when do we get to return home?
asleep, side by side in Kentucky humidity,
i wonder about Americana humility
and of cultural extremity
that deserts, jungles and sand storms make any sense
of the senseless or shallow,
solid sweat or arid heat...
there’s no longer that threat...
but is there?
a threat longs to last,
lasting to long...
with a hold on the heart to remain strong,
nomadically herding whatever may be left....
I wonder what it feels like to starve...
I’m starving to feel and wonder....
boyishly lost in dreams of kakaday, hibiscus juice,
lost, suddenly sudanese,
with global perspective,
interloping in pain.
The Papyrus Palm remains in the Sudd
swamped to keep northern noise away...
if not for tomorrow, then at least for today.
Akech tearing his out, in pain,
tearing out mine, a soul,
bullet from yesterday’s crime,
survived when a
cousin is dead.
Is there supposed to be
a thread to this meaning?
Instead I teach of clouds,
black, and coming in three....
when his car breaks down,
and he clowns with me,
my runner’s attire,
“I don’t need to run,” he whispers.
“I’ve walked enough miles for the two of us.”
Muwait sitting calm, without a fuss, wanting to know,
to Americanly grow and find,
within his curious, ageless mind
which meanders in “tell me’s,”
this land of the free...
will be a promised reality,
for his opporunity to gain literacy
which is uncommon for men back home...
Panther stalking stoically,
stoically stalking sad nights, alone,
trying to thread meaning to his loneliness
with a kiss for his daughter sent serendipitously
across Atlantic seas,
hoping the dress he sends will find her....
with words written to be read
with money, better left unsaid, for survival...
a life they once knew goes on, life, they know now, going on,
is their elsewhere.
love thy neighbor. neighborly love thee. thy neighbor loves.
Kenya can, because it could and did
to other goals
to win the prize
that fauceted drop of dreams in a heart
that starts anew ...
I’m lost, and you?
We are rising,
rising, risen, raised...
beyond how hard you held us down
animistic and proud
in a land where poachers
seek salvation in an elephant’s tusk,
before night becomes dusk
and hot laban milk is drunk
|In Memory of James Kuch Mangui|
unless home brings you hope.
the moon, elliptical in its eccentric epiphany, e
xists despite the flight
of African somebodies
crying “why why why.”
There’s a hymn of hope and happiness
when the heart finds its home
aside red seas,
threaded with white Niles, and a marketplace of famined Souk
where Shariah Laws determine
who to curse out loud.
somebody say hello in Dinka,
mother tongue -
that’ll be just fine.
Taking you away from the whine of being treated
as a Muslim African Whore...
to the liberation,
of an army,
southern and for the people.
in corporate need,
taught to us via greed,
planted as a seed,
and no one knowing how to stop it.
maybe i should just drop it
|William Panther Ruei|
this ought to be in pictures,
don’t you think?
a box office hit
beautiful in the pursuit.
28 million scarred by
undiscovered political ping pong,
loss of Britain’s strong political hold,
getting old into Arabian human rights abuse,
looking for an excuse the family is broken,
and for a token
of what you once knew....
to your memories, stay true,
driving forward with this dream,
and sketchy at the seam,
but solid in its patchworked song and law....
if i could see what you saw
if i saw what you’ve seen
in awe by what your eyes tell me.
|Sabit and Achech|
lost in a walk, my journey of solitude and sand
syncopating their history,
yet alive in a blister,
we must hope for reasons to trust
hoping to love, i believe
these homeless, irishly-drunk words
born before they live, dead,
six feet under...
until I allow this page to come alive.