Safe Space
by Michael G. Smith

They asked what I missed about Kathmandu
so I replied…
“well it’s not that I miss the pollution and chaos
nor the motorcyclists and automobile drivers
who blatantly turn in front of a pedestrian
i miss the children of Chhahari
Nepalese for safe space     the orphanage
i volunteer at most Decembers
having just returned     talking to you now
i still see the brick building sandwiched
between others like it     its wanting rooms
receiving little of the low winter sunlight
two whitewashed bedrooms and their six pairs
of bunkbeds     belongings neatly piled
at the foot of each donated mattress
unheated everyone wears winter jackets
and hats     but after school there is no
gloom     just intense concentration punctured
by laughter as we sprawl across the floor
practicing arithmetic and algebra
writing poems talking chemistry     to learn
new English words and their pronunciation
i have the enthusiastic pre-teens read aloud
their village myths from slim volumes
i found in a tourist bookstore     every day
a different child subtly asks me when will
we be going for our annual circumambulation
of the Boudhanath Stupa and then to
Himalayan Java for cappuccinos brownies
and apple pie     just like our children they’ll
circle and circe before springing their real
question but what i really miss is the sharing
of their traditional Nepali dinner of dal bhat
with me and how one will say she dreams
of attending university here to become
a doctor or banker or poet and wonders if
i will help her obtain a student visa”

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