How would the poem "At the Border" by Dr. Choman Hardi be defined?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"At the Border" is an autobiographical poem by Dr. Choman Hardi, a Kurdish immigrant refugee from Iran who lives and writes in the UK.

The poem is defined by its free-verse structure; there are no rhymes or rhythmic elements, and instead the poem is presented as the fragmented recollection of the five-year-old Hardi, who twice had to flee persecution. The poem describes Hardi and her family waiting at a border to be let across to their homeland, and how the land itself is unchanged by the border, only the idea of a border to prevent people from crossing freely. The guards check their papers and faces; the implication is that they might be refused entry, to be caught by whatever peril they flee. The poem is deliberately free-verse, and has no implicit structure besides the simple, mono-syllabic narration (a very deliberate choice by Hardi). This serves to showcase how the small child standing at the border thinks about the situation; not about the political and social issues, but about the immediate here-and-now.

Now our mothers were crying. I was five years old
standing by the check-in point
comparing both sides of the border.
The autumn soil continued on the other side
with the same colour, the same texture.
It rained on both sides of the chain.
(Hardi, "At the Border," kurdmedia.com)

Here, the narrator's attention is struck by two contrasting stimuli: first, her mother is crying, which she cannot understand as everyone is telling her that the country across the border is better than the one they are leaving. To the narrator, the event should be happy, but she cannot yet understand the horrors that her mother may have witnessed, and the powerful emotion of relief to finally be safe. Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, the young narrator notices that the ground and weather are the same "on both sides of the chain." Why, then, is there a barrier at all? Are not all people the same just as all the land is the same? Why should some people remain on this side while others are allowed to pass? In this way, Hardi encourages the reader to explore the history of oppression and refugees, using her own experiences as a learning experience.

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