When they arrive in the country,
voyagers carry it on their shoulders,
the dusting of the sky they left behind
The woman on the bus in the downy sweater,
I could smell it in her clothes
It was voyager's dust from China
It lay in the foreign stitching of her placket
It said: We will meet again in Beijing,
in Guangzhou. We will meet again.
My mother had voyager's dust in her scarves
I imagine her a new student like this woman on the bus,
getting home, shaking out the clothes from her suitcase,
hanging up, one by one, the garments from the old country
On washing day my mother would unroll her scarves
She'd hold one end, my brother or I the other,
and we'd stretch the wet georgette and shake it out
We'd dash, my brother or I, under the canopy,
its soft spray on our faces like the ash
of debris after the destruction of a city,
its citizens driven out across the earth.
We never knew
it was voyager dust. It said:
We will meet again in Damascus,
in Aleppo. We will meet again.
It was Syria in her scarves.
We never knew it
Now it is on our shoulders too
Poem by Mohja Kahf
published in Emails From Scheherazad