Volume 28, Number 1

Migratory Patterns

The Somalis arrive during a fierce cold snap.
Over sarongs and kameez they wear army navy togs
with thin, inadequate shoes.

The pastor herds them into her church.
A student hushes the organ he's been practicing on;
round-eyed babies stare at stained glass, blood rush of October sky.

The pastor contrives a walk on the esplanade under hawthorn trees.
Tiny fingers pluck crimson berries; adults stare at the sea.
Wrapped in shoddy, they want to be good refugees.
But who had dreamt this kind of cold?

Geese cut triangles from blue, geometric symmetries.
The travelers are learning winter, its prompt rehearsals,
slender hatchet blows to the skull. Fall will be brief, mutter waves
that lack the grease of a slow roiling river, a muddy flood.
Winter begins its bone dance.

Later they wilt in steam heat around a settlement TV.
Under his hair the dictator grows purple, spitting out Somalis.
They are un-welcomed, says a young, fluent one.
He is thinking of Qori ismaris, the hyena-man. Nothing is solid,
neither berry nor glass. Smoke rises from a cup of bitter tea.

—Carol Alexander