A. E. Stallings

The City (After Cavafy)

“I want to go to another land. I want to cross the border,”
The young man out of Syria said. “I’m tired of being stuck.
Sure, Greece is nice enough if you can get a job: good luck.
I’m afraid to apply for asylum here. I’ll end up in the street,
With no place to go, nowhere to lay my head, nothing to eat.
I was working on a degree in English literature in Damascus.
And now, what’s to become of us? Nobody ever asks us.
No one cares. Europe is dysfunctional disorder.”

But you can’t get to another land, you’re never going on.
This is your future, where so many others are unemployed.
The smugglers will sell you lies, their faux passports are void.
Your Arabic is native-speaker, naturally; you speak
Excellent English. But to these skills, best add demotic Greek.
Here among this urban squalor, maybe, you’ll grow grey,
If they do not deport you back to Turkey, if you stay.
Time waiting is time running out, youth spent’s forever gone.