Life Jacket by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


When barbed wires carve
their unwelcome print into your
raw palms,
and lawmakers stack votes
like concrete blocks
before your feet, engulfed
by the sterile soil of homelessness,
stay back

Away from tent cities
and the swarm of stations,
piled with the color-gone fabric
of makeshift blankets, shredded shoes
and bones used to rest your head  

And pull,
the blue threads of your chest,
lower the arms
you raise only to surrender,
and cloak the numbed body,
the empty witness of ghosts
hovering in the private history
of your birthplace

Make a lifejacket
of your embrace, and
paddle in the blood
of your own channels
where each cell carries
a piece of your breath

Swim,
until you find it,
the clasp fused with despair,
unfasten, and rip the way
back into the swallow of your heart,
return to that home
forever your host

Unfold your flag there,
in the open quarters, rinse,
your skin, still too soft
to bear the ink of
world leaders; remember,

you were born first
into a province of hope,
long before you waited
behind anyone’s borders,
even your own.


Photo of Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

Photo of Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad was born and raised in New York.  Her poetry has appeared in Passages North, Chiron Review, The Commonline Journal, Kudzu House Quarterly, Narrative Northeast, and is forthcoming in Natural Bridge, Pinch Journal, and Poydras Review. She currently lives in New York and practice matrimonial law.