July/Aug 2019 • Vol. XLI No. 4 |

Fuel Burns

Gasoline canisters leak or get knocked over; gasoline mixes with seawater, and when the mixture touches human skin, skin begins to burn. Women sitting in the bottom or the center of the boat are at highest risk. Dinghies are fitted with plywood floors fixed with nails and screws that puncture people’s feet. The wood soaks up water, expands, and then splits. Women and children often fall through the floor or are trampled and drown. People fight on the boat, the bodies of survivors and the dead are full of scratches, bite marks, cuts and bruises, but it’s fuel burns that horrify most. Survivors arrive hypothermic, dehydrated, barely conscious. They must shower with soap to get relief and need help stripping off their fuel-soaked clothes, but just touching their clothing can make latex gloves melt. Note This poem is an erasure from a blog entry by Dr. Sarah Giles, a Canadian physician who volunteered for Doctors Without Borders in the Central Mediterranean in 2016. To re

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Khaled Mattawa currently teaches in the graduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan. He is the author of four books of poetry and a critical study of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Mattawa has coedited two anthologies of Arab American literature and translated many volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry. His awards include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Prize, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and a MacArthur Fellowship. He is the current editor of Michigan Quarterly Review.

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Malouk’s Ode

By Khaled Mattawa

Gasoline canisters leak or get knocked over; gasoline mixes with seawater, and when the mixture touches human skin, skin begins to burn. Women sitting in the bottom or the center […]

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