Intelligentsia by Jamie Osborn

This poem by Jamie Osborn is part of a series written in response to working on a refugee camp in Chios, Greece. Tune into the podcast this Thursday to hear him talk about his experiences and share more poems from the series.


Suleiman, your breath stinks. Of smoke, of
drink. Though you’ve not a cent or dinar
to your name, there’s money burning holes
in your hands you peer through. You ask, so
I buy you hair-gel, and you eat it,
believing in the alcohol. It
will make you handsome. The sleepless nights
will darken your lids, make your lashes
seem less long. Come on, Suleiman, I’ll
buy you coffee and – though I know you
will not touch it, for your mother’s sake –
we’ll get stoned on pot, dance together
naked down the street. Set the textbooks
ringing – arm in ashy arm, we’ll be indi-
gents, two island-hoppers with nothing
left to revel in but Marlboros.

Originally published as part of the series Chios (a case of knives) in PN Review 246 (March – April 2019)

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