Companions Without Maps
30 Poems in November

Hot embers seemed to lick her skin
Each time her acquaintance proposed the question
“Remind me, where are you from?”
Repeated as if it were an anthem
To indicate disinterest in the prospect of friendship.

Instead, the forgotten details symbolized
Her willingness not to judge based
Upon insignificant fragments of a past
That involved emotions, stories and adventures, instead of facts,
Which do not convey compassion or sympathy.

The situation repeated itself, with variations in the intonation
Depending on her travels and the new speaker’s location.
Such was the case when questioned in Spanish,
Yet the woman’s courteous reply, demonstrating curiosity, banished
The fear that every negative connotation of her hometown would be scrutinized.

When others made condescending jokes about each state
Where she had lived, this new acquaintance would never underrate
Any country, or mistake it for a state of mind.
Dispelling all insignificant questions, the two would find
That they had the same humor and shared design to continue to write.

She would never again discount a trifling
Slip of memory or foreign pronunciation of an American name.
It would be petty to return the gifts of a companion
In exchange for insincere scrawled notes of names and personal interests;
Perhaps some have exchanged their appreciation of friends
For lifeless questions and utterly esoteric answers.

As part of a month-long event co-sponsored by the Smith College Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, “30 Poems in November” includes student-penned poems for the purpose of raising money (and awareness) about The Center For New Americans. This literacy center provide immigrants (as well as refugees) with the resources needed for them to learn how to read in English.

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