We Say Salt from To Speak in Salt

15 October, 2022
To Speak in Salt is available through SPD.


Becky Thompson

Sociologist-turned-poet Becky Thompson focuses on the individuals affected by the forced migration crisis in Greece in this collection of poems inspired by her recent work in the camps on the Greek island of Lesvos and leading poetry workshops for the refugees.

In December 2021, amid thousands of asylum seekers in the Mytilene camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, Pope Francis entreated the world, “Please let us stop this shipwreck of civilization.” Joining a sociologist’s trained eye with a poet’s open heart, Becky Thompson has not only looked into the faces of the dispossessed, but she has also empowered them to speak for themselves in this moving book. The wide variety of poetic forms in To Speak in Salt stands as a metaphor for both the unique suffering of each individual she meets and also for their unique individuality. If the poet cannot stop the shipwreck, she can surely help us feel what it’s like to survive it. (Order To Speak in Salt from SPD.)

Let’s hear from the poet directly:


We Say, Salt

Salt in fine lines around your eyes     keep walking
Salt in the shaker     where tourists stare
Salt for flavor     salt caged in yellow plastic     salt to make tabouleh
In Arabic salt is milh     we say salt is earth’s silk
For the desert’s pleasure     we say salt in the blood
We say     salt will dust your eyes with sorrow     come here I will kiss you     here
Sprinkle salt for tomatoes     salt for when your lover leaves you in salt
When the bomb leaves a salt trail in the street     we scatter with our children
Salt tracks on the desert     travel at night    with salt in our shoes
The sea loans salt to rocks     we are salt     rafts their own salt



We Have Taken the One in the Sky as Our Witness”

In your right hand hold the color of the tribes
In the left a pencil that erases state borders.

With the color of dawn, you can cross over
A merciful god turns a mirror on borders.

For if you have crossed so have we all
Skin is an organ that refuses all borders.

We plant petunias in fallen white helmets
The scent travels past bullets, slips around borders.

Alawites in Aleppo, my family strewn about
I know now the moon cancels night borders.

If you are worried, grasp a skein of sunlight
so torture won’t seep into your body’s borders.

They call me Fadwa Suleiman, my poems: no borders.
My body from Paris to the sky, an elegant boarder. 



Arabic translations buy Mootacem B. Mhiri, a Senior Lecturer in Arabic at Vassar College.


Becky Thompson is a poet, human rights activist, yogi, and professor. She is the author of several books, most recently Teaching with Tenderness and Survivors on the Yoga Mat. She has co-edited two poetry anthologies, including Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees (with Jehan Bseiso). Her honors include the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Books on Human Rights and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Association of University Women. She has held appointments at China Women’s University, Princeton University, Duke University, and the University of Colorado, and currently teaches at Simmons University. Since 2015 Becky has been traveling to Greece, meeting rafts, working with asylum seekers, and teaching poetry workshops.


1 comment

  1. This book talk is like religion for atheists. How beautiful your hands seem to shape your words in this book talk. Thanks 🙏 love you, mom

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