A poem: Palm up in offering

Note: I've been rather quiet on this space lately. I'm still struggling to figure out how to process recent events, especially the recent executive order banning refugees from seven countries. So, to help me process, I wrote a poem. It's not polished or even share-worthy, but it is honest. Maybe you're also reeling during these difficult times; if so, take good care of yourself. Try reading or writing poetry or take a walk or eat a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies or cook a meal for a friend. Do all the self-care things, so you can take care of others. Also: Thanks to my fellow writer, Lisa Leshaw, for the title suggestion for this poem!

Palm up in offering

One week after President Trump's 
executive order on immigration, 
I let fear propel me to action and sent an email to a
refugee resettlement office checking in on the families
set to arrive in my town this spring.
My family was hoping to welcome a family from Somalia.
I had been looking forward to doing my part.

I imagined sharing a meal with this new family--
cambuulo and tacos, shushumow and apple pie
dotting the new farmhouse table my dad made for me--
the table that I prayed would be used as a bridge
during these difficult and divided times.
Our kids, naive to cultural differences,
would play together
even though they don’t share the same language.

Within minutes, I received a response: 
Due to the recent executive order,
we are halting all resettlements.
Thank you for your willingness to help.

I set out for a run in the freshly fallen snow
and turned on a podcast, thinking
of the families who were turned away.
Sara Kate Levey, an American Jew living in Los Angeles
spoke about her connection to the Holocaust:

Her father in-law was a teenager.
The tattoo of his number still remains
on his arm.
A living testimony to the last time
our country turned away refugees.
Our government stuck out its hand,
not a hand outstretched--
but an open palm in halt formation.
Fearing Nazi spies would surely slip in
among these 900 Jewish refugees,
our government pointed the boat back home.
Upon their arrival home,
they were not welcomed with parades and balloons
and children waving those patriotic mini flags.
The last time we turned refugees away,
more than 250 of these 900 were slaughtered.

Levey, an American Jew, said: 
We feel the fear Muslim-Americans feel right now.
It’s in our bones.
Fear is in my bones, now, too.
It’s in the bones of many Americans,
pulsing through our bodies,
breathed out in different ways.

A friend told me the other night to let go of that fear.
I don’t think I want to because
this isn’t a paralyzing fear--the kind that catches me
unaware at two in the morning,
breathless and rigid.
This is a holy fear.
The kind that shows us what the world is capable of, and
I want this fear to move me forward,
to spur me on towards love
Instead of holding me back from love.
I want this fear to move me forward
to open my home,
to open my hand,
palm up in offering.

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