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  • Tamara Chicoine

Standing in Line

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

I stand in line at the store.

a stranger from Syria,

my last home a UN refugee camp.

In front of me a boy, perhaps fifteen.

In my country, he would be a man.


He turns, sees my obvious displacement,

my clothes, my skin, my hair, my family.

He comes closer.

I wait for the unknown. A fear revisited.

My wife and daughter move closer,

touching to feel safer.


The young man shows no vengeance,

a youthful curiosity.

He wastes no words, a confident Canadian.

"Would you help me if I came to your country?"


There is no threat in his words.

I am an old man. I have known many threats.

I choose my words carefully.


I say, "I would know hunger and thirst,

the worry of keeping my family together.

I would know how to seek shelter

from bombs falling at night so you do not die,

your wife and child left with no protection."


"I would understand why you never

walk in the open street,

only amongst pieces of rubble on the side.

The assault of bullets a daily certainty."


I would know the loss of your friend, a doctor

who died trying to save a group of schoolchildren.

How your neighbours have gone missing,

never to be found.


I would know the constant flap of hundreds of tents in the wind.

The camp, never a home. Never.

Heat, trepidation, haunting dreams.

Waiting as days fold into weeks, months."


The young man drops his gaze.

He looks up again.

I think perhaps I see a tear.

I cannot be certain.

My own vision is clouded,

I worry I have said too much.


"Yes," I say. "I would take your hand.

I would share my home, my food, my life...

because I would know."


The Canadian boy extends his arm.

We shake hands, the smallest gesture.

"Welcome," he says.

I am glad you came to Canada."


One week has passed.

Walking down the street in the sun,

I see this young man. He waves from a distance.

"Hello, Amar," he calls out. I wave back.

There is a warmth across my chest for this land called Canada.

Today we meet again for tea.


Original poetry by Tamara Morozoff Chicoine

August 2018

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