“Rain and Embers” by Ali Nuri— Poems of an Iraqi Refugee

Nuri, Ali. “Rain and Embers”, Ali Nuri, 2019.

Poems of an Iraqi Refugee

Amos Lassen

 “Ali Nuri was born to a Shi’a family in the southern marshlands of Iraq at the height of the Iran-Iraq War. As a persecuted religious sect, they were attacked by the tyrannical government under Saddam Hussein and fled across the desert to escape. He spent his childhood reeling from the trauma of being uprooted and forced to migrate. Ali survived four grueling years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia before being granted asylum by the United States at the age of 7.” Like many others, Ali’s feelings of oppression and alienation  led him into writing. He shares with us his self-portrait and his thoughts about migration, trauma, abuse, racism, religion, philosophy, intimacy, love, loss, forgiveness, and redemption. I love that his poetry is raw and the fact that it is written in a learned language rather than a mother-tongue makes it all-the-more special.

We cannot help but feel his sense of alienation since Ali move from one oppression to another. Here is a look at an Iraqi refugee in post-9/11 America. Since it is so realistic, it is quite naturally heartbreaking. If you have ever wondered what immigrants to this country feel, you simply have to read this. Having experienced similar feelings when I left this country to live somewhere else for many years, I can tell you that you really never miss a homeland until you do not have one.

“I’ve got words
residing inside me
freely meandering
reshaping a wasteland
into the prospect
of treasured home again”

Home is not where you hang your hat but where your heart is (or wants to be). We are all too familiar with immigrants who have had their human rights taken from them as they leave one country and move to another. You really feel that here.

While this is Ali’s story, it is also the universal story about the desire to survive and about self-acceptance. Ali grabs us by promising to share his story but we are not quite ready for the depth to which he goes.

he tears into the reader, begging them to see him for only a brief moment, as he opens his mouth to express the words he had hidden deep within. It is something of an assault of the senses but I mean that positively. Ali wants to be treated like the human that he is. He does not ask for more than that but it is necessary that we hear about the traumas and the nitty-gritty of his life, if only to get to know him better. We all want a place that we can call home even if our homeland is torn from us by the ravages of war.

Ali’s words flow into a special kid of poetry, lines that ask why subliminally and they come from his heart and go into our hearts and mines. Even though this reads as the poetry of emotions, it hits us as the poetry of thought.

I chuckled and I wept as I read but more than all I was moved. I do not think that anyone can read this without being moved. We are angry at the way the administration is treating immigrants and after reading this that anger becomes rage. Dare we remain silent? We are all roamers looking for homes. Let’s all do so together.

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