Ultimately, The Ungrateful Refugee is an instruction book in how to be humane.
Sex. Brutality. Animal faces. Wrathful oceans. Rickety boats. Stupid men who robbed my human rights. Insecure love affairs. Floating corpses’ love affairs. Am I also a floating corpse? What else?
I am at the meeting point at the jetty by Mytilini Harbor just after 8 am. A lone slender bearded figure sits and smokes by the quai (he is H___ the barber, I learn later). Instead of approaching I retreat to dash off a sketch of the harbor mouth and a little coast guard tug against the rising terrain.
He knew how to be eleven years old. He took joy in the moment—in the good slice of pizza, the trip to the arcade, the tickle fight. As part of a big family he was happy to be in company with lots of people. To his relatives I must have seemed like the strange one: quiet, introverted, demanding of difficult pleasures that were a long time in coming. I never talked to him, or to them, about love.
“I think my poems are all Jewish because they’re all curious, and they’re all petitioning, in one way or another.”