Michael E. Woods’ moving verses provide a look at how Germany is handling the Syrian refugee crisis, considered to be the worst displacement situation of our time. He explores the theme from an American perspective, noting that the U.S. is a “land full of racism, too.”

Listen to Woods read “Hemispheres” and follow along below.


By Michael E. Woods


Blisters under callouses wet and sloppy guitar strings when the laundry is done i’ll look over to Budapest,

where hundreds of friends are crowded by security forces into a square, sleeping on cobblestone, thousands hemmed

at the border by razor wire. (In Germany, neo-Nazis hide razors behind racist stickers on light poles—if you tear them off,

there’s blood.) The train station refuses to let departures to Germany. The Prime Minister’s saying,

“Serbia is safe, stay there. We don’t want more Muslims.” i’m in Berlin, and Dublin rules are shredding skin bare.

When they arrive i hope my fingers, my laundry, my chords, the apples, the wounds,

are raw and ripe.


A new complex for refugees opens soon in my neighborhood. Twice now have neo-Nazis thrown Molotov-cocktails into the children’s center. Brand is the word newspapers use for the fire. Like Ethan, like Mike. Like swoosh. Eruption. Elizabeth and i don’t have many skills to offer anti-Nazi extremist organizations, but instead we offer bodies at the train station. Apples. Waiting, we sit side by side and read The Lord of the Rings in our new tongue, a land full of racism too, and erasure—


Michael E. Woods edits the Columbia Poetry Review and teaches at Columbia College Chicago. He received the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015 from Vanderbilt University. Recent work appears in The Rising Phoenix Review, The New Territory and Eclectica Magazine. Forthcoming works can be seen soon in Yes, Poetry, Solidago Journal, The Prodigal’s Chair and The Nassau Review. 

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