I grew up landlocked

Planted in a field of waving wheat

By the bowing heads of sunflowers

The sky is our infinity in the Midwest

It is our ocean,

Our basin,

Our plate tectonics.

Our sky is our everlasting–

Our proof of Gods

I could squint hard and see the ocean in my dreams

And it was always morning time,

And the sand was always warm,

And there were sunflowers lining the shores.

Seagulls stood like cornstalks, scarecrows.

The water was a fallen sky.

A new type of autumn

Clouds floated like jellyfish.

Airplanes learned how to be submarines.

If the sky were proof of God,

The oceans were proof of Heaven.

Somehow, still, I never expected to find death there.

The first time I saw the image of a Syrian toddler face down on the beach,

It felt like opening my eyes underwater.

The first time I saw a boy’s brown eyes blink beneath his brother’s blood,

The first time I saw an old man cry,

The first time I saw someone lose their daughter,

And then their mother,

And then their sister.

And then their city.

The first time I saw terror,

The first time I saw displacement,

The first time I saw refugees,

Was the first time I saw so many spines,

Bending away from the bad news.

I can’t say I don’t understand you.

The salt burns my eyes,

And I want to look away too.

My dreams of crystal sandcastles,

On bubbling beaches,

Are obscured with dead bodies,

And I try to make myself wake up.

And it’s always morning time.

And the sand is always warm.

And there are sunflowers lining my soul,

I stand like a cornstalk, a scarecrow.

And I hide my sifting spine,

And I will do my best to bring you to our beaches,

To welcome you into our home.

I will teach submarines to be airplanes.

I will stop dreaming of beaches,

And start dreaming of your safe arrival.

I will be your refuge–

The shore you will wash up on.

This country should be your sailboat.

I’m sorry we keep sending you away.

Our light towers don’t tell you the truth.

You’re wanted here.

I want you here.