Banished (from home)
by Jen Schneider
“Landmark case, statutory law,
voir dire,” the judge uttered,
slurring. His words spoken slowly.
Too slowly. I craved clarity.
The father across the aisle
looked hopeful. I resisted
an urge to snap
my fingers. Snap his.
No one cares,
including those seated
on the wooden bench
pretending to listen. Hiding
behind cloaks of draping fabric.
A laminated name tag
decorates the black robe. Ten letters long,
like mine. Nothing more than normal
folk under all that dress.
I never cared
for pomp and circumstance.
Not in Aleppo. Not here.
Now, I sit in a foreign court. Waiting my turn
to plead our case. Opposing a ban
devoid of heart. Lacking a soul.
Me – here. My family – in Aleppo.
I miss them. Check my watch.
Imagine Papa teaching. Mama preparing shish birak.
Children chasing cats in the alley.
The judge continues to speak. Beyond the podium.
“Statutory procedure,” “limitations,” “motion denied.”
Unfamiliar terms. Now he speaks faster,
too fast. I can no longer follow.
I don’t need to. The mother’s eyes darken.
Her face drops. Another reunion denied.
Tiny beads of sweat
accumulate on his forehead.
His sleeve moves to his upper lip.
Normal folk tending to normal problems.
Like an itch on an upper lip
where the morning razor scratched too hard.
I look away, but can’t focus.
My eyes dart left, then right.
Focus on her. Two rows in front,
three seats down, to the right.
Long skirt. Heavily textured,
brightly colored fabrics.
We both look out of place. Suits
line the rows, casting shades of gray.
When the violence
came. Fatigues on every corner.
Drifting, I find myself back home. Aleppo.
Wandering market stalls. Squeezing fruits.
Canvas knapsack full of oranges,
plump tomatoes, courgettes, and crisp cucumbers.
Before the violence came.
Laughter erupts. I jump,
but don’t hear the joke.
Words of meal time,
brunch, which only confuses
No matter, I listen,
but will never understand.
Strangers suggesting my family
poses a threat. Failing to understand.
We are normal folk, seeking normal lives.
Beds, school, each other.
These courts. This process. So far from home.
I used to idolize them.
Watching the foreign news. In forbidden books.
Now I know they are broken, too.
I’ll never have a home here.
I cannot return home, either.
* * * * *
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Coil, The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, 42 Stories Anthology (forthcoming), Voices on the Move (forthcoming), Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.