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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