Colored Homes, makeshift lives

The tent was blue, the floor – brown.
There was dirt. Dirt was the floor.
It used to be blue, the girl said
Pointing at the floor.
You don’t mind me looking? I asked, hesitant, prying.
The girl shrugged – It’s an open tent.
What is there to hide?
I drew her home in my black book.
She came and sat beside me
And offered to color it – a little help, she said, smiling.
Tell me about you, I urged
After a few pleasantries.
Her green eyes looked up from the book
And gazed at something far–
I couldn’t see.
It was a village in the slopes, by the woods.
She said there were chairs and fireplaces –
You could sit down. It was cold and it was warm.
That sounds enchanting, I said.
She smiled and colored some more.
There were bookshelves, bigger than the tent
In her school.
She had colored the cracks in them
While she waited
For someone to come rescue her –
That is how she had broken –
All the colors she had
in her rusted crayon box.

I asked her if she understood
Why she had to be there –
In the shelter, as they called it.
She said, she did – a little –
There were bombs being thrown,
people were dying.
It was important to live, she said.
I looked at her – young and wistful –
And asked – who was throwing bombs?
People, she said.
Why? Why do you think?
Because – when countries fight,
they did that, she reasoned.
Huh – I stopped.
So, countries – were fighting? I checked with her.
Yes, they disagreed on things –
Things like fences and gates – she explained
Drawing fences in the air.
They have ideas – of where those begin
And where they end.
They fight about those. She surmised.
Who are they? I asked.
People, she guessed.
So people of countries, fight over ideas? I quizzed again.
She shrugged and looked away.
That is vague, her eyes said;
Her loss was real.

There was a village. We may not see it anymore –
The loss is real – I summarized in my mind.

Last time, it was not like that – she tried to explain –
Her previous ordeal with tents like these;
They were fighting, but they were not countries.
Who was fighting, then? I asked, trying to see
How the coloring was coming along,
All around the facts – in my little black book.
People of religion, she said –
They had ideas too – of what was right and wrong –
So, they fought about that.

This is it – she said, handing over the book to me –
This is my home.
I looked at it,
She had not colored the tent
Instead, she had drawn her home.
It was green, like her eyes.
Blue and red adorned the walls.
It was warm and it was cold, like how she said it was.
It is bright, I said. It is beautiful.
She looked far away again.
I wrote beneath
That picture of home –
While we play, a surreal game
With our wits and guns,
She sits there – looking past
Dreary shelters and makeshift lives –
At a home that was untouched
By anything
but a clamor for life.

My lines, scribbled in haste
Looked nothing like
What was in her mind.


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