“Normal” – A Poem by Monica Bharadwaj

Photo Credit: Kim Leeson

Dedicated to the courageous men, women, and children I have had the profound honor of knowing through DASH Network.

By: Monica Bharadwaj

In the midst of this pandemic,
I find myself wondering
when the world might once again
return to normal.

What a privilege it is
that normal
is secure, stable, healthy,
with friends and family,
a job and freedom.

You see,
I’ve never heard the sounds of bombs detonating,
the marching of soldiers down the street,
the taunts of rebel’s chants outside my window.

I’ve never seen the street-side massacres,
looked down the barrel of a gun,
heard about the kidnappings, torture, rape,
only to be kidnapped, tortured, raped.

I’ve never had a target on my back
that put those I love in danger,
that forced me to flee in the dark of night,
kiss my spouse, my father, my mother,
my sons and daughters,
the hardest goodbye.

I’ve never hugged my children for the last time in years,
told them we’d be together one day,
prayed to God my word would hold true.
Oh God, please let my word hold true.

I’ve never looked my eldest son in the eye,
tasked him with looking out for the others,
watched his childhood fly away into the night sky.

I’ve never had to steal one last hug,
feel my shirt soak with the tears
of children who will never understand
that to protect them,
to love them,
to save them,
I had to leave them:
my life, my heart, my world

I’ve never left with nothing
but my documents,
a wad of cash,
a mustard seed sized faith,
and a nauseating courage that felt like death.

I’ve never landed in a foreign country,
to travel for three months
by bus, by boat,
by foot ten days across the Panama Canal
with no food or water.

I’ve never been confronted by guerrillas,
held at gunpoint three times over,
surrendered my wedding ring
to jungle thieves with AK47s.

I’ve never walked up to the barbed wire gates of freedom,
arms surrendered,
tears streaming down my face,
thinking the hardest part of my journey was behind me,
only to find that this was the starting line.

I’ve never spent months in prison,
weeks in a homeless shelter,
years in non-profit housing.

I’ve never tried to find a lawyer
in a country where I do not speak the language
with no money to my name.

I’ve never waited a year for a work permit,
two years for my court appointment,
the whole time wondering which was closer:
the last time or the next time
I would see my family.

I’ve never woken in the dead of night
to the sounds of my own screams
as the breath escaped my lungs.

I’ve never stood before a judge
with my whole life and future and hope in their hands,
been looked in the eye,
and granted the asylum status
upon which my whole life hinged.

I’ve never waited three more years for my family to be approved,
to finally stand with sweaty palms in the DFW airport,
alongside everyday people,
welcoming home loved ones from international travels.

I’ve never wanted to shout to the world why I was there:
That today was the single greatest day of my life!!
But instead,
standing quietly,
with nervous anticipation,
occasionally forgetting to breathe,
fighting the rising hope within my chest
that had so often lead to disappointment.

I’ve never seen the double doors open,
my spouse with a shy, nervous smile,
my children, eyes wide, taking it all in,
as they scanned the room looking for me.

I’ve never fallen to my face in the middle of a foreign airport,
Thank you God
Thank you God
Thank you God

as I held my family in my arms.

I’ve never felt the tears of children who still don’t fully understood why I left,
soak through my shirt
as I held them in my arms
taller, older, more grown,
almost seven years later.

I’ve never embraced my family tight-
our broken hearts all beating together,
rejoicing and aching in unison,
marveling and mourning
at the same time.

I’ve never flung open the door to our home,
beaming with pride,
years spent preparing and dreaming of this very moment.

I’ve never sat around the dinner table,
the smells and flavors and spices of home,
in our home away from home,
just as I had always imagined,
it would one day be.

I’ve never woken up one day to find life
secure, stable, healthy,
with friends and family,
a job and freedom,
only to wonder
when the world might once again
return to normal.

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