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Halim, waiting

By Kathleen O'Toole

He arrived first as a student of geology
          in the bicentennial year.
                                             He witnessed
the fireworks, read the Declaration and believed it.

One by one, he brought his family -- Fatima, Anas,
          Nassir. Today they are all citizens. He alone waits.

He built houses, a business, this dream. Eighteen years
           of waiting to savor the meat he first smelled roasting

on Manhattan streets. His father's home in Baghdad
           is in ruins. The cousins in Najaf are dead, conscripted --

His youngest son has brought the daughter of a family friend
          to Virginia to marry. Even she will be a citizen before him.

Each time he travels home, one more letter in his file
           for helping the war effort.
                                   Still at each airport, the pat-downs,
pull asides, manhandling -- the eyes.
                                                          At the immigration office
they say: one more name check. One more set of fingerprints.

His wife says: now they will not give this. They need to keep him
           on this leash.

Added: Thursday, July 3, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Kathleen O’Toole

Kathleen O'Toole is the author of Meanwhile and Practice, a chapbook of poems. She has combined a more than thirty-year professional life in community organizing with teaching and writing. She has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University and at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She currently works for V.O.I.C.E., an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation in Northern Virginia.

Other poems by this author