Dedicated to City of Asylum Poets and Writers

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Ovid in Exile Ion Theodorescu-Sion 1915. Public Domain

Sunlight was just here for a tiny moment, not scattering across my oldest room, but only arriving as a streak of gold on my new pages written by an exiled poet.

My warm hands turn the pages one by one hoping to see the poet find her home in her homeland. But the scenes become foggier. Every new chapter is a journey further away from the red earth of her farming mothers. Every new line is further burdened by time losing its chances to secure her roots.

In between the building up haze of the pages, I dream. I dream of her dressed in her mother’s colors and speaking her mother’s languages, but the stage remains foreign, and the audience, although kind, has different tastes of tongue and sight. I see her read her pages of struggle like a prayer to an alien god. I am convinced she is not looking for anything anymore. Not even her homes.

I see the tyrants come and go; entering the stage with a flag and leaving the stage with words of the artist=. It is a robbery so unthinkable that we will let it showcase in our museums of history and in closed revolutions of intellect but we will not absorb its inconceivable loss in our real and tangible days. We will let the fog build. We will let the fog build. We will let the artist vanish into it slowly.

I wake up in fear. With my fast paced heartbeats and shaking hands, I wonder how many of her poems were stolen from her in her exile. I cannot even come up with an intention to measure this horrendous loss. What reaches me in these new pages today, under that tiniest streak of sunlight for a brief moment, is whatever was saved from the wars that have got nothing to do with poetry. And yet poetry and her creator had to lose the most.

In the meantime there is another artist without home murmuring her salvaged words in strange places. She is not hoping for or dreaming of anything. She is doing what she does best. She is rescuing words that need to be said.

Vaishali Paliwal

City of Asylum in Pittsburgh ia a non-profit organization that has “provided sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that they can continue to write and their voices are not silenced” close to two decades if not more. They have several exiled poets and writers in residency and regularly host programs to introduce the work of these writers to the community and cultural exchanges to continue even though the work has been banned and censored in the native countries of these artists.

There has been unthinkable violence against humanity. And then against art by censoring some of the most important voices and messages of our time. This will only be a growing trend with many countries adopting the nationalistic fanaticism as their new attire. Any voice that slightly questions these Govts will be/are completely suppressed. There is an ongoing threat to basic human rights and artistic freedom in many parts of our planet. As writers from countries who have freedom of expression still, this opportunity shouldn’t be wasted. We need to speak and write strongly for those who can’t.

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