Exile Dossier

January 22, 2019

A large inkblot stain on white paper, through which writing on the opposite side just just be seen but not read

The bruise of ink on white paper.
The words that line transcription and record.
I know I am more than this thin sheaf.

The written name of my village
can’t say anything about the openness
of its sky at dawn, the small birds there,

the stout trees, the wild berries on bush branches
that well with spring light. I never lived
any politic until others’ political choices

erased the walls of my home and school,
my father gone and the history of my grandfather.
I am more than the circumstances

that suddenly turned my life into years of waiting,
the body I inhabit, the body
I carried through countries,

telling my story, telling my story again
to different-coloured paper, to brown folders,
to queues of office rooms. I tell the barest facts

and erase everything else. I become
what will allow me to stay.
I tell myself, become your papers.

I tell myself, erase until you become revision.
Erase until you become
the other of yourself, the future of yourself. You erase

and fill in, only imagining what you
would have been if you had stayed,
if you had stayed in your life, not remembering

who you were and settling into who you are now.
Erase your body, your accent, your history, your life
until you are allowed to live.

Nicholas Samaras is the author of Hands of the Saddlemaker and American Psalm, World Psalm. Having lived in ten countries, he is currently completely a manuscript of poetry on the psychologies of exile. His essay “To Write from a Place of Permanent Exile” appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of WLT.