Diane Thiel

Issue #
March 24, 2019

Library of Veria, Greece

We started with the maps,
the children’s lines and colors charting a way
to think about the future and the past.
Earlier that day, we’d driven by the old factories
once used for canning peaches
now full of people moving through,
but caught in the long still moment of a life
stalled, even in this frantic motion out and forward.
Some children drew a village in Syria,
a home they no longer knew.
Some – the place they thought they might be heading to.
Some had the past falling off the page,
as if the memories were fading too, that world closed
and now so far away, far from this sudden island
in the middle of a childhood.

The waters had monsters circling beneath.
The land was hazy, as if nothing yet existed,
the stories in the shapes imagining futures
past all this. I wished I could tell them
anything about the next chapter,
the next stage, how best to find the way.
But as a child of refugees whose own worlds
blew apart and hurled them elsewhere as children,
I have so much to say
and so much not to.
We have to hope this too shall pass
and we will pass
something kind here,
if even for a day.
A small place of refuge, the library,
in this world of dark‐eyed Alexandria
who had a drawn her map with a fire at its center,
but we won’t go entirely there, not today,
though thinking of why these children are here,
the history—Alexandria—is not that far away.

The young cartographers finish with a flourish, having imagined
where they are heading, drawing it closer into being.
They move with their papers to the front desk,
checking out books in a language they don’t yet know
but are quickly learning, and they head out waving,
smiling for the moment
at the possibilities in their hands.

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