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  • A Refugee Comes Home and Wonders How She Got There
  • Basevich Elvira (bio)

The way home we seek is that condition of man's being at home in the world.

Ralph Ellison

I've arrived in this country before; in this very century,maudlin cashier girls and ticket agentsminister to my physical body,my need for clothes and toothpaste and a mailing address.

The miracle of walking home in the eveningto my assortment of things—a photographfallen behind a mirror, a minor constellation of notebooks,a packet of flour that I've neglected,

now a bacchanalia of moths that my roommateinforms me originate from northern Europeand have learned to consume the clothes that I can't afford,the grain that I now can't use

and yet, it's a stroke of luck, really—as you know—to have this little cornerof the earth: the traffic lights burst into my bedroomlike an overexcited childbefore resuming its triumphant departure into the world,

the long, lapis exhalation of autumnin the floorboards and the windowpanes, obscured by half-flowered buds [End Page 343] and sparrows,the used-up rag floating in the kitchen sink—

each proof that god was on our side all those years ago.That I've been elected with a keyand a bedroom window—with my own life that I can take into the city tomorrow

and station in the public library for hours,writing apology letters to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruzbecause I regularly abandonmy craft, as in later tonight, when I will go out dancing

in Brooklyn, and will be drunk and happy.For it's no small matter to learn to apologize a little lessfor one's own life. That a refugee crowdedinto a train car or the hold of a decrepit cargo ship

was not indulging in life but belonged to it,even as her limbs disarticulate under the hard muscle of the sea,where she will remain alone in the dark, indefinitely.One day, perhaps, that darkness too might speak,

maybe even go out dancing, and—who knows?—get married and throw a lavish wedding partybecause life will cast off its merchants, all of them,who elect some into the world and un-elect others,

as if it were all the same, a small matter of detail.When one looks from a sufficient distance,it is hard to tell a human bone from a fish bone,a girl from her screaming ghost,and the earth from the undifferentiated darkness through which it floats. [End Page 344]

Basevich Elvira

Elvira Basevich is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, Dearborn. She specializes in social and political philosophy, ethics, Africana philosophy, feminist philosophy, and the history of philosophy. She can be reached at



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