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'A Single Step': A Poem on 'Treacherous Journey' From Haiti to the U.S.

Family members left behind by Haitian emigrants to the U.S. ask help from God to get through the complicated web of American immigration law. (Gregory Bull / AP)

Hawa Allan’s verses breathe life and empathy into headlines about the travails Haitian migrants face as they cross from Brazil to Mexico, and onward to the United States. According to recent records, about 40,000 Haitians are attempting the 7,000-mile journey through Latin America and into the U.S. as their home country stagnates politically, socially and economically.

Listen to Allan recite her poem and read along with her below.

A Single Step

By Hawa Allan

And so it ends,
that journey of seven
thousand miles—
with a single step.

Ferried by swollen
feet, having clutched
at the underbelly
of cargo trucks,

head inches
above a blur
of tar and dust.

Dirt-washed
from ancient lands
where war is weather
and weather is war,

you have survived
the arbitrary
blunt force
of history.

And now you
seek the asylum
of my quiet
desperation.

So take a single step,
a quantum jump
into a higher order
of worlds,

and find that
you are always
arriving
at the border.

A wall of tongues,
impenetrable ears,
a fortress of detention
locked by unscalable
bond.

Step into the land
of the relatively
free,

a home that is
braved.

Come, walk in
shackled to this new
state.

Welcome to
our adverse
cities.

As you file in
numbers, know
that we are here
waiting to see you.

 

  Hawa Allan writes cultural criticism, fiction and poetry.  She is an essay editor at The Offing and her work has appeared, among other places, in The Baffler, the Chicago Tribune, Lapham’s Quarterly and Tricycle magazine, where she is a contributing editor.
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