Escape Route
by Marjorie Lotfi Gill

           In response to the BBC’s interactive
           Syrian Journey: Choose your escape route
           (“If you were fleeing Syria for Europe,
           what choices would you make for you and
           your family? Take our journey to understand
           the real dilemmas the refugees face.”)

There was the game of counting
               gunshots in a riot,
and buying cigarettes
               for our too-blonde mother;
the game of the school set on fire
               while we were still in it,
and counting the minutes
               until the return of my brother.

There was the game of one toy
               for the journey,
of taking my lunchbox
               and filling it instead;
the game of hiding mother
               on the way to the airport,
father at the barrier
               while we went ahead.

There was the game of turning
               your ring inwards,
giving it to the man at the gate
               to let you pass;
the game of finding your seat
               on the flight,
counting those standing in the aisle
               who got on last.

There was the game of rising too far
               through cloud,
then descending again
               over the border;
the game of picking
               a runway and landing,
our radar stripped out so we wouldn’t
               make it over.