Poetry: "On Refuge and Language" and "What I Will"

Suheir Hammad
Date Published: 
June 1, 2006

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Suheir Hammad

On Refuge and Language

I do not wish To place words in living mouths Or bury the dead dishonorably

I am not deaf to cries escaping shelters That citizens are not
refugees Refugees are not Americans

I will not use language One way or another To accommodate my comfort

I will not look away

All I know is this

No peoples ever choose to claim status of dispossessed No peoples want pity above compassion No enslaved peoples ever called themselves slaves

What do we pledge allegiance to?

A government that leaves its old To die of thirst surrounded by water Is a
foreign government

People who are streaming Illiterate into paperwork Have long ago been abandoned

I think of coded language And all that words carry on their backs

I think of how it is always the poor Who are tagged and boxed with labels Not of their own choosing

I think of my grandparents And how some called them refugees Others called them nonexistent They called themselves landless Which means homeless Before the hu