Poem about Tedi, a fellow participant in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma

Tedi was quiet for the first two days and has been much less so since.


when I ask about his religion,

tells me

that he is Muslim

on his mother’s and father’s sides

of his family.

And then,

when I wonder

what other sides exist,

says that he is Protestant

because of his neighbor.

He lets the shorter sister know

he does not drink

because he is Muslim,

informs Sunday a minute later

while heading down the stairs

that he is going out drinking,

tells a third participant

a moment after that

he drinks

because he is Muslim,

and then shakes his head

with knowing disapproval

when Sister Giovanna,

who calls me ruffiano,

and who told us

she could communicate

with her Spanish

but prefers to sing with her Italian

chastises me

for being an American

who consumes wine like beer.

Tedi, who identified the prisoner

and the social worker

in the healing environment picture

for Maria,

who skipped the computer training

to go to Rome

and watch the Champions League’s Cup.

“Jeff, it’s the most beautiful stadium in the world,”

he said,

his eyes glowing

with joyful anticipation.

Tedi, who head butts me in the stomach

as he enters the bus,

and punches me

a little harder

than is comfortable

on the shoulder

as we stand at the monastery’s back door.

Tedi, who assigned his roommates

to look for the passport he thought he lost:

Mohamed the first floor;

Neil the Yankee

scouring the cobble-stoned street;

while he focused on the room they share.


who told Barbara in the front office in Italian,

“I am going to ask you a question

and I want the answer to be Yes.”

And nearly danced a jig

when it was

because the nuns had had it all along.

Tedi makes sure

that Kathleen gets on the bus

and up the villa’s stairs

and yells down the second-floor hallway

to make sure that anyone

who wants to come to dinner joins us

so that no one is excluded.

Tedi, who works with police torture victims

and helps them heal.

Round faced, stubbly Tedi,

who resembles the school boy

he once was

when his sturdy doughy body

convulses with high-pitched laughter.

Mysterious, fantastical Albanian Tedi,

who encourages me to see the meaning

that exists in every Italian joke,

who argues with loud

gesture-filled conviction

with a man giving us directions

to the Golden Ass,

a restaurant that no longer exists.

Tedi, who I would consider trusting with my life,

but would be more than a little nervous

and would probably close my eyes

and gulp a lot

as we set off on our adventures together.



2 responses to “Poem about Tedi, a fellow participant in the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma

  1. Sounds like people who want to stem political violence and injustice need a Tedi alongside them.

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