Issue No. 20 | Spring 2019


Ahmed talks to his 13-year-old brother

Moria camp, Lesvos Greece

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Found conversation

guest teaching poetry at the Mosaik House, 2018


An elegant Eritrean man asks before class: You mean we can write in our own language? Really?

Greek teacher of English intervenes: We don’t really write in here

I look up: Really?

He says: We study verbs, present and past

I say to the class: Can we look at the Nazim Hikmet poem,

someone read it out loud?

“Some advice for those who will serve time in prison”

A Syrian woman reads it in Arabic

A man from Malawi reads it in English

I give them the prompt

“As long as the jewel at the center of your chest…”

fear in the room

turns to excitement

people share pens, begin to write

A young man from Sierra Leone

his spine as straight as his eyes 

whispers to me:

This one in the story

that lost his whole family

that one was me

pointing to the word “lost” in the middle of the page 

A young Afghan woman

holds onto her friend

men to their right and left

says she likes the poem

about memories and backpacks

wishes it was in Farsi

I say, me too

Afghan filmmaker:

I’d rather not use the word “refugee”

 ever again

Which word would you use?


What happens if every time you hear the word refugee you whisper/shout the word people?

[Note: Mosaik House is a community center in Mytilini (Lesvos, Greece) that offers language workshops for people in in transit from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, and other countries.]


A praise poem for political poets

Thank you for teaching me when I was young to open a window, let the breeze come in;

for the thousand batons you threw out when you passed to the next realm;

for poetry the color of the Mediterranean, doors, windows, sky;

for it’s a midsummer’s night. The light is skinny;

for internationalism made holy;

for the woman who washes her yellow dress in a barrel in Nicaragua, sensuality surviving, even in war;

for asking us to write without pencils and paper, poems right from our bodies;

for cradling my cheeks, saying read it out loud, listen for words;

for fragmented sonnets, breaking the rule while honoring its essence;

for wrapping life jackets around Europe’s citadels;

for taking arrows from our hearts, audacious is your spirit.



Becky Thompson Ph.D. is a scholar, poet, yogi, and activist. Her recent books include Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice, Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night (poetry) and Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees (with Palestinian poet, Jehan Bseiso). Her honors include Rockefeller and Ford Fellowships, the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Books on Human Rights, the Creative Justice Chapbook Poetry Prize, and the Mosaic Award for Excellence in Teaching. She teaches poetry workshops for people in transit in Greece, for community workers in China, and elsewhere. For more information please see or write: