Because the Road Rises to Meet Their Feet


Anne Valley-Fox has published four collections of poetry, most recently How Shadows Are Bundled (University of New Mexico Press, 2009). She is coeditor, with Ann Lacy, of five books of documents culled from the New Mexico Federal Writers’ Project (Sunstone Press). See

Our driver lifts his hands from the wheel to points
out a group of refugees walking along the road
in the warm night. “Did you see them?”
His voice is rough and sad.
“Every night a hundred more land on our shores
on Turkish rafts. Mostly they come from Syria.
They’re walking to Mytilene, hoping to cross
to Athens. And then? They don’t know.
Our own children are leaving Lesvos—here
there are no jobs. The EU has Greece by the throat.
What can we do? There is nothing we can do.
And still they come, every night they come.”

They walk in clusters of twenty or thirty
along the road’s shoulder.Hum of talk as we pass.
A woman turns to a man, their laughter
strumming the dark like Spanish guitars.

July’s full metallic moon spangles
their headscarves and hoodies, the sable heads
of small children carried in their arms.

How dark their joy!

Because of the bottomless sea.
Because landfall was cushioned with smooth pebbles.
Because the road rises to meet their feet.

Because they walk in the open with sons and daughters
Because they have honey and figs in their packs
to feed the children.

Because their neighbors are corpses.
Because bombs whistle as they fall.
Because all praise belongs to Allah.

Because blood darkens outside the body.
Because of Christ nailed to the cross in roadside shrines.
Because of the viper coiled in the solar plexus.

Each dawn one or two innkeepers greet the refugees
with food and water. “I’m sorry,”
a woman says as she climbs off the raft.
“We don’t need anything,: a grandfather answers,
“except your prayers.”

Because of a pile of life jackets, plastic bottles,
a child’s pink inner tube abandoned on the shore.
Because the dingy has already been deflated.

Sun lowers into the branches of a weathered pine
winging between balcony and sea.

Three crows swoop to the field where eight goats graze.

All night the sea on soft rollers coming toward me.

Birds puncture the dark with bright song.

Sapphire sky ricochets off the Aegean.

Mid-afternoon when we go into town, a group of refugees
sprawl on the ground at the buus stop under an awning;
now it’s too hot and they are too weary to smile.

Because there is no safe harbor, we’re all on our way.