If you are a child of a refugee, you do not
sleep easily when they are crossing the sea
on small rafts and you know they can’t swim.
My father couldn’t swim either. He swam through
sorrow, though, and made it to the other side
on a ship, pitching his old clothes overboard
at landing, then tried to be happy, make a new life.
But something inside him was always paddling home,
clinging to anything that floated —a story, a food, or face.
They are the bravest people on earth right now,
don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe
swirling as many details as yours, as much love
for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn,
the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere
to receive a letter for a very long time.
And if we can reach out a hand, we better.
The poem is written in response to the refugee migrant crisis where refugees from the Middle East and Africa like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya etc., mostly Muslim countries, risk their lives crossing over the Mediterranean sea to Europe.
The poet thinks of her father, the older generation, being an immigrant from Palestine to the United States, who also braves his life to find a humble place in the new land. Likewise, now, the refugees have their reasons in going all the way in search of a better life. Also, the poet suggests that his father remembers being a refugee is weary and difficult, and is forgotten by his homeland. So the poet urges to help the refugees if we can.