Leaping Over

Author: Toni Jackson, 8th Grade

“Leaping Over”

The tent began to rattle like a feather beneath the hot wind.
My stomach churned,
begging for food that wasn’t available.
I stand,
leap over my mother and father.
Making sure not to awake the 8 other bodies in the tent.
All of them, my family.

Outside, I close my eyes.
Imagine fried kubbeh and
Maqluba, with a side of fresh cow yogurt.
Hoping for comfort, I instead retch food out of my stomach;
Food that isn’t there.
Crickets chirp in response,
as if understanding my pain.

With those memories comes also:
Violence, fighting, a life with no nationality.
No place to show patriotism for.
A citizen of nowhere.
Too Kurdish to be Iranian,
Too Iranian to be Iraqi,
Too Iraqi to be Turkish,

Yet Turkey is where I’ve ended up
A refugee camp like an unkempt hog pen
I scratch my dirt covered feet
And leap
Over my mother and father
Back into our tent
As thin as paper.

Eighth grade English students at KIPP DC: KEY Academy considered the challenges of fictional and real refugees in their fall unit, centered around a study of the novel Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. The novel tells the story of a young Vietnamese girl and her family who are forced to flee their home during the fall of Saigon and ultimately begin to build a new life for themselves in Alabama. At the end of the unit, students used their knowledge of free verse poetry to write their own narrative poems that captured the universal refugee experience.

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