translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

Like the rest of you,
I thought of escape.
But I have a fear of flying,
a phobia of congested bridges
and traffic accidents,
of learning a new language.
My plan’s for a simple getaway,
a small departure:
pack my children in a suitcase
and to a new place we go.
Directions confuse me:
there’s no forest in this city,
no desert either.
Do you know a road for loss
that doesn’t end
in a settlement?
I thought of befriending animals,
the adorable type, as substitutes
for my children’s electronic toys,
but I want a place for getting lost.
My children will grow,
their questions will multiply,
and I don’t tell lies,
but teachers distort my words.
I don’t hold grudges,
but neighbors are always nosy.
I don’t rebuke,
but enemies kill.
My children grow older,
and no one’s thought yet
to broadcast the final news hour,
shut down religious channels,
seal school roofs and walls,
end torture.
I don’t dare to speak.
Whatever I speak of happens.
I don’t want to speak.
I’d rather be lost.

From You Can Be the Last Leaf (Milkweed Editions, 2022) by Maya Abu Al- Hayyat and Fady Joudah. Copyright © 2022 by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat and Fady Joudah. Reprinted with the permission of Fady Joudah.