# 495: Madame

Lebanon Poetry

This poem was written for the 250,000+ migrant domestic workers in Lebanon who suffer from mistreatment, sexual abuse, and the lack of any rights. May the world listen to their stories and may those who contribute to the injustice understand that they can make a difference. It is never too late to understand one’s own faults and to take steps into a different direction…

My madame is nice

Treats me like a family member

Was not always the case

Not all madams are nice

You know the stories…

Which stories?

Eyes looking down

Tears held back

We do it for the family home

You know?

They need us

We are the only hope

My husband is lazy

My children are hungry

“Mama, when do you come back?”

Smartphones they help

In the digital age

Keeping you connected

When skins cannot touch

Some get mistreated

They run away

No papers and rights

No money or future

Then I found Jesus

He gave me hope

Going to church

Takes my mind somewhere else

We cannot talk freely

The madame is at home

Crazy woman has no heart

Does not know how to cook

I raise the children

My son worries me

I cannot sleep

“Mama, I hate going to school.”

I have come all the way

And he wants to quit

I cry and I cry

Is it worth all the pain?

Talking to my son every night

Hope he understands

“You know, why mama is here?”

Black skin in a country

Where there is no law

Sending every penny

that I can spare

“Son, you will end up like me”

How can a child understand?

War everywhere in the world

“I do this for you, you know?”

But he did not ask me

I went myself

And the agent was nice

Promised me a life

That would get me somewhere

“And then you come back,

just two or three years.”

Yes, lies sound so nice

Has been eight years now.

Another night in tears.

The teacher calling.

“I talked to your son,

He will come back.”

Does the lord answer prayers?

How does he know?

When the last tear is about

to make one jump.

“Domestic migrant workers”

What a name for us!

We are human beings

Of all colors and souls

Every day it gets worse

And I am one of the lucky

Have survived the ordeal

Did not end up in prison

Never got raped

And never got beaten

The inner wounds

Nobody sees.

Have kept my dignity

Still speaking up

When madame yells

I turn my back

Maybe I should stop

Sending everything home

My bones are hurting

My muscles are sore

The less I keep

The more I hurt

Was it worth it?

Only foreigners can ask

If there is no option

There is no choice

You do what you do

Because there is no way

Nobody leaves home

For no reason at all

Ask the other migrants

They will tell

Their stories of loss

And living hell

This country is racist

As most others are.

See my skin?

I do not look Filipino

My husband is black

Still, I am one of the lucky

My madame has trust

We are tidy and smart

They always say

I feel bad about my sisters

Who have darker skin

All of us lose

The more the country suffers

And no madame in the world

Can pay the bill

For the life that we sacrifice

Sometimes I dream

That I am back home

Going to college

Studying for a job

Then I wake up

And I hear my heart

It is pumping like hell

Outside traffic roars

Why am I alive?

Was this God’s plan?

There are slaves and masters

And no choice of my own?

I read about Hagar

She was seen by God

I know he sees me

But is that enough?

Then I am ashamed

Of my own sins

My madame is good

As good as it gets

When your husband works

And the money is lost

When the only thing you do

Is sit at home

Sometimes I think

I am happier than her

I had the courage

To change my life

Where this will end

Nobody knows

On television I see

They drop bombs everywhere

I see the explosions

And lost lives in the streets

I ask my madame:

“Will they start war here?”

She has no answer

And I know she is right

Nobody can tell

What the next night brings

Whatever happens here

Will be reflected at home

At least I am alive

That is good fortune

So many are dead

They could not endure

Having a child born

From their master’s deed

Shall I tell my story?

And if yes, to whom?

Will not change anything

Women will come

Because they have no choice

And I understand

Because I am still in their place

Life is like a carousel

Going round and round

There is no real change

You end up in the same place

Yesterday I heard a story

About one of us

She studied online

And will be working outside

Could not believe

Would be possible

She said people in church

They saw more in her

And that gave her strength

To believe in herself

Such stories are nice

And for a moment I smile

At night I go back

In the darkness I cry

Look at the picture

Of my son at home.

Maybe one day

My madame will say

“Here is your money

You are free to go.”

Would I go back?

Of course I would.

Would I be the woman

That once left home?

Maybe I grow old here

Get buried with no name

If that is my faith

It will happen anyway

All the people fighting

For human rights

What good does it do?

They are not in our shoes

But they pretend to know

Knowing is feeling

And paper has no skin

All the reports

Have not done a thing

My madame keeps crying

The less money there is

We all have our burden

The rich and the poor

The cruel and the good

“The dog needs to get out.”

My hour of freedom

Sometimes I think

I want to be a pet

No worries inside

Just taking a walk

When I see the ocean

I think of the bodies

The waves swallow lives

Lost in escape

More people will leave

And more will die

We are all puppets

In the game of life

Some know the rules

And others make them

I can be glad

I have a room of my own

And a few hours of freedom

“Mama, I want to study.”

I am so proud of him

Do not dare to tell him

His dreams can’t be fulfilled

I remember my mother

May she be blessed

Told me to not

Make the same mistakes

I feel so ashamed

That I failed so far

Being born in poverty

Dying without dignity

Maybe there is one thing

My story can do

It can touch the hearts

Of people abroad

May they learn about us

And feel our pain

Have mercy with this country

And push it to change

My madame is not a monster

We are sisters and brothers

On a sinking ship

Dear Presidents

Do you want to see our scars?

Our passports are in your hands

Our money in your banks

Allow me one word

To make you wake up

If you want peace in this world

You have to stop

Right here and right now

Is the time to change

Check your pockets –

Are they empty inside?

If not, be happy

And think about us

I am here for you

Just call me up

Want to know my name?

Just come to Lebanon

And cross the street once

You will see me everywhere

Do not have to search long

Are you afraid?

Why do you pause?

Oh, there are interests

And power plays involved

I am just a maid

With a madame at home

Whose heart is as cold

As the fridge I do not own

I have no solutions

Just my own sad life

If you want to save it

You are welcome to join

The chorus of people

Who want to do good

Give them the strength

And the faith to go on

I trust in you –

As I trust in God.

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