Crossing Lines, poems for immigrants & refugees
COPYRIGHT: the individual authors. No part of these literary works shall be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express written consent of the author.
Burkini by Cassie Smith-Christmas
You shed your skin:
pulp from pip,
by gunpoint, of course,
for you are in a
skin should be incinerated,
branded with Robespierre
and a cult of reason.
hot and white
on your body
yet this is freedom, don’t you know,
the same all-mighty glory
that lets us in our
watch children wash up
like plastic bags
and do nothing:
for their skin is like your skin,
and that is reason enough for us.
First published in Gutter magazine no. 16.
The hunger-monger by Camilla Lambert
He can be a hurdy-gurdy man, jangling
and cranking his drone for skeleton figures
to totter in a slow sardana. In another guise
he wears a long coat of piebald browns
and flutes promises of asylum far away,
where beds are soft and walls protect.
He plays at vanishing, returns to tread
field-edge dust, kicks away the dying weeds.
In his wake a cow stands motionless;
its head drags skinny shoulders down,
scant measure of hay long gone,
and a child cries, nuzzles unappeased.
Shadowed by him a hugger-mugger crowd
drags bundles to a drab encampment
where they may be fed. After empty days
they have forgotten what it is to eat.
In presidential corridors he is spotted
dressed in minion grey. He exits the rooms
of braided colonels or ministers of state
guarding a heavy bag, lips tight. And always,
like the hungry he needs to gorge upon,
he circles in and out of borderlands.
He hides in camouflage, sharing fires
by ragged shelters with the prey he trades.
Feather-Shelter by Mandy Pannett, West Sussex
it’s morning with a chance of sun
and I’m waking up to myself and all the stuff
outside my window – birdsong, traffic, footsteps
on a gravel path.
Voices that were calling to me in the dark
are now switched off.
the fabric of life for some
is too thin for repair.
Who darns a sock these days, turns a collar,
weaves a sackcloth shift?
it happens offstage
as in a Greek tragedy where a messenger tells
that children have died in the wings
but the impact is less
if I don’t see bodies
or sense the no-breath in a van.
So let’s say
it’s easy to airbrush, photoshop and sink
an image, blur a face, a hand
or turn the volume down low,
that a feather-shelter may disperse
and I won’t even know.
First published online in Poems for Calais Refugees
Hunting Lizards in the Dark by Niels Hav, Copenhagen
During the killings unaware
we walked along the lakes.
You spoke of Szymanowski,
I studied a rook
picking at dog shit.
Each of us caught up in ourselves
surrounded by a shell of ignorance
that protects our prejudices.
The holists believe that a butterfly in the Himalayas
with the flap of a wing can influence the climate
in Antarctica. It may be true.
But where the tanks roll in
and flesh and blood drip from the trees
that is no comfort.
Searching for truth is like hunting lizards
in the dark. The grapes are from South Africa,
the rice from Pakistan, the dates grown in Iran.
We support the idea of open borders
for fruit and vegetables,
but however we twist and turn
the ass is at the back.
The dead are buried deep inside the newspaper,
so that we, unaffected, can sit on a bench
on the outskirts of paradise
and dream of butterflies.
© Niels Hav
Translated by P. K. Brask & Patrick Friesen
Veiled by Alwyn Marriage, Surrey
If I veiled
would you know me
or pass me unsuspecting
in a crowd?
Will you see below
the colour of my skin: the shape
of nose, or curve that catches
smiles born in my eyes?
A fleeting image of a woman, shrouded,
scuttling out of the side of a television screen.
In the foreground men, burning books
burning flags, burning with rage.
A London street,
miles of cultural alienation
from the place called home.
I smile at you
and in return receive
a miracle of veiled communication.
For the children of Syria by Colm Scully, Cork, Ireland
Syria sits in darkness,
our children locked in their living rooms.
Women make their way to the market
or wait at the food station.
The doctors have left for Europe,
the young men have joined the resistance.
Our Alawite friends have fled to Damascus.
A breeze rolls down the street by the kid’s playground.
A barrel bomb sits in the sandpit unexploded.
Two French nurses walk by carrying a coffin.
The words of peace at prayer time seem empty.
The children of Syria are starved of the joy of being children.
How many have died in this war I'm afraid to ask.
When the war ends who will be in charge?
They will tell us we need to rebuild, to work together for Syria?
When my husband comes home this evening
from the university
I will say tonight there will be no prayers.
I am sick of praying and dying.
What can we do to help end the war?
21st March: UNESCO WORLD POETRY DAY
The Poem by A C Clarke, Scotland
The poem is my motherland, my refuge,
my friend and my travelling companion
I carried a poem in my pocket as cash
for those who won't take plastic,
carried it across grey level plains,
each more featureless than the last
into crowded cities, each more like the next
until I settled - the way a butterfly
settles - in a place
foreign as its people’s moonfaces,
their blurred vowels.
And the poem
turned itself into a room:
I was inside its words
safe as houses.
Then tanks came, helicopter gunships
police who said
we are only protecting you
don't say we didn't warn you
soldiers who huffed and puffed
and blew the poem inside out
so I stood homeless
in the ruined street,
words strewn on the sidewalk
running black in gutters.
I heard their groans.
I took a taxi to the airport
to catch the last plane to somewhere else.
My eyes stung with salt
as I searched the aisle for a seat.
When I slid in beside her,
a woman turned and smiled:
Don't fret, the poem said,
I'm coming with you.'
The Poem was first published in Scottish PEN’s online magazine PENning and is included in her fourth collection In The Margin (Cinnamon Press 2015). It will appear in I’m Coming With You, an anthology of poems from PENning to be published soon.
Guerrilla Bay by John-Karl Stokes, Australia
“And still they come”
Salt on the rock
A single drum
Stung mouth of the waters
and rain on the strata
Who wins. Who loses
Who pays the ignorant boatman?
The sea will use its fingers
to claw at the opening
the bay’s rubbed language:
swell and knock
swell and knock
This the sea’s language:
the urgent hope of the lover
the entry into the dark arch
The fingers break
out of the sea
parting the strata
Swell and knock
The fickling stars
disappear in the night
A coin-hard wailing:
the boatman’s naked wife
calling in the tide.
FLOTSAM by Richard Fleming, Guernsey
(noun: wreckage, remains; debris, detritus,
waste, dross, refuse, scrap, trash, garbage, rubbish.)
The sea does not want her.
It takes the others:
her, it discards
half-dead on shingle-sand,
the reek of salty fear
on brown skin.
and quarrel overhead.
She lies face down
a human starfish,
one black asterisk
on wet shingle,
she counts her stations:
hunger, terror, flight,
a merciless sea
that does not want her
spins like a mirage:
a half-moon cove,
aligned like bars,
She claws wet gravel,
to her knees,
kneels to vomit.
Along the beach,
Phonebox by Alex James
A monolith stands,
towering over pigeons
who pick greasy paper
out of fried chicken boxes.
from another world.
Not calls, just things
left, tags, dripping,
skunky as a wet nest.
Calling cards, the soft
pink scales of a lurid
creature, barely seen,
offscreen. The receiver
hangs dead as an arm.
Last night, there was
someone. A man,
crying, with his family back
in some distant village.
Last week, there was
no-one. The week before
that, there was
A VISIT TO THE IMMIGRATION MUSEUM by Chris Considine
Pictures of ships. I imagine their white sails
like flocks of wings blown by the wind out of our harbour
out of Plymouth Sound to the open sea across the world.
A grey plaque on a grey wall in the Barbican:
Charlotte and Friendship set out from there
more than two hundred years ago.
Below-decks no beauty, each ship holding
a hundred criminals. Eight months of rats,
lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, fleas and stink.
Charlotte my grandmother lost her brother
to Australia – 1910? 1920?
Never saw him again. (His voyage made in forty days
and nights on an Aberdeen Line steamship.)
My sons too have gone to their far continents,
not carried by lovely squalid sailing ships,
or steamers with yellow funnels breathing heat,
but through the sky in silver, propelled by
a sense of adventure, chance-met brides.
With some expense of money and spirit
I can visit, along with all those other
grey-haired parents wondering how much longer,
can land in January summer, stroll
in white cotton beside the shining skyscrapers
to the museum in Flinders Street
and learn about the breaking of families.
Convicts of the First Fleet – first flood to wash up
on this shore to start the new nation.
After them wave on wave of arrivals
endless as ocean, millions of scattered souls
spun round the globe on currents of air and water.
Crossings by Patrick Williamson
The swell of lift & descent
in the dark a howling wet wind
here we go, half way up, then
pitch again, toss & plunge,
hold on, for life is not drowning.
Softly, like a whisper, the surf
releases, o my god,
its tongue reaches, eyes wide open,
its next breath draws in
harsh & rasping, the rush of silence
the sated wind sweeps up, love
clutching fingers break free
sliding back, tugged by undertow.
I was a child too, imagined
shadowy creatures reach up
& strip away the covers -
the cold, we are joined
myself, black-blue sea,
swept away, swirling rafts
skating over the fathoms.
Crossings first published in I am not a silent poet 2015
A Lifetime in Aleppo by Maurice Devitt
Swaddled into a world
where life is the only antidote
to death, she wakes
to the crumpled landscape
of her mother’s skin. Eyes drawn
to etchings of blood
on bone, she learns
to fear the silence,
count her future
on the fingers of one hand.
Born with an inkling
that cowards in doorways
are dazed by the merest pin-prick
of light, she sleeps in the arc
of the moon.
Bloated by spaghetti stew,
she takes refuge
in the normality of nightmares,
exhumes a history
of massacres and earthquakes,
re-run to a point,
where every second time
she comes out
on the right side and believes
one night she will escape,
a name and a wooden crutch.
first published jn The Open Mousehttps://theopenmouse.wordpress.com/poets/
Passau: Germany-Austria Border, October 2015 by Barry Tempest, Dorchester
We have passports and spare clothes.
For us the border is open.
The police do not even look at us.
They meet the train heading west
from which emerge a few young men,
Iraqi, Syrian – we can’t tell –
their faces blank with weeks of travel.
We watch, as they carry their lives.
They line up meekly and are led away.
We watch, as we carry our bags.
Women Waiting by Thelma Laycock, Leeds
Each day you came to my class:
butterflies in your silks and chiffons,
you made the school colours glow like jewels.
In this photograph you explored a Bradford store,
soft materials from India, skeined, folded,
made bright shelves.
Boys filled your conversation:
a few of you were already promised,
others received cards, phone calls anticipating marriage.
On that day we were on our way to Haworth:
I wondered what Charlotte Bronte, in black bombazine,
would have thought of her young disciples,
who stood tall, black eyes blazing,
the vivid veils setting off glossy hair.
My butterflies scattered across a graveyard,
scarlet, yellow, purple,
delicate against stone.
Below the dark church reared:
you pressed forward, excited, imagining
Charlotte’s wraith, a smiling bride,
waiting in white by the altar side.
For you, white was the colour of mourning.
(In her collection ,‘A Persistence of Colour’, (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011).
Long Division by Sue Kindon
There are those
who look for connections,
explorers of lifelines
and those who stand back
as a boatload of Eritreans
goes down at Lampedusa,
or was it a film,
a story of kindness to one
who was rescued and sheltered,
a baby born in the house of a stranger
persona non grata
outside of the census,
consensus, conspiracy has it
send them all back
these scroungers, these breeders
of fear, back where we came from
dark ages of ignorant borders
and fiefdoms with castles
where knights would set out
on crusades against infidels
only to end on the opium fields
of The Somme, stripped bare
in the leafless searchlights
as Jericho falls,
or Palestine rattles
with bones of revenge
on blackened New York,
where the white of an eye
is shot down by a cop,
and it doesn't stop there
first published on Reuben Woolley's site, "I am not a silent poet" in December 2014.
I Never Go There by Tony Frisby
never tend the flowers,
never rip the clogging weeds
from sacred places, never make the journey,
never visit the graves of my own dead.
But we meet, and though scattered
to the seven corners of the earth,
it's an ever-growing entourage
of souls and spirits that gathers
on Whiteway Lane to talk,
to laugh, to console
as we set out together to walk
the gentle hills above Saltdean;
a man, his loved ones
his friends and relatives
strolling the ups and downs
of a shared and cherished past.
But what to make of those stragglers,
that group pleading in the wake
of our procession?
What to do, or say; how to act,
how to deal with those drowned children,
the frantic parents
searching amongst my dead for comfort?
How to tell them that their
winds a different route to mine;
that theirs, beginning in a nightmare
ends, not in a gentle walk,
but in rubber death-traps
that flounder on a sea
of mistrust and bigotry?
Pawn by Jenna Plewes
This is all she has now,
she will make it hers.
She’ll find a space, unpack,
lay out her plate, mug and spoon,
take the photo frame and candle
from one pocket, from the other,
seeds in a screw of paper,
her little moon-gazing hare.
She’ll unroll the muddy sleeping bag,
take off her sodden trainers,
look out at the stars pray.
When everyone’s asleep
she’ll close the canvas flaps
against another night,
lie, dry-eyed, watching the past unreel.
Perhaps tonight she’ll sleep a little
while a cold moon stares
at a dark chessboard
of identical white tents.
What is a man anyhow? What am I? What are you? by Richard Westcott
(line 391 of Song of Myself by Walt Whitman)
What am I? And what are you?
I am what I seem – I know I am solid
and I know I am sound. See me –
here I stand upon the path
where my shadow falls
across the valley. And you will hear
as I sing in these mountains –
my sound is carried strong –
yes, some may even hear
afterwards from far away – my words
and music once again
as echo – for those who listen.
So now I go – as man must walk along
his ridge – for this my little while.
And I shall meet another traveller
who may ask – what am I? – as I ask him.
And he will answer – he's what he seems –
no more – no less. He feels deathless too.
There is no need to pray or venerate
the many who have passed this way
casting their shadow, singing their words.
Later – their journey done – to await
unseen in silence a possible echo –
unseen in silence a possible echo.
No – no need for ceremony. But I call to you –
stand forth and sing – then like a songbird
listen. And as you proceed – ask the one you meet
if he is solid too – and is he sound?
8th March Woman's Day - Giornata della Donna
Untitled Eeva Maria Al-Khazaali, Maanika, Finland
The heart is a homeland without borders,
If a negative to the appeal comes on mail
we refugee to Canada whilst you wish
a vacation to Spain
One of the refugees is my husband.
He tickles me under my chin and under my hijab.
I don't talk about my vagina.
We play dice as the morning follows.
The moon, stars and the sun are as many
as the refugees in the world sparing lives
on fingerprints printed on the star-flag of Europe.
I hope every night and every night the hope dims.
Migrant by Julie-ann Rowell
She took me by the arm. All the clocks had stopped.
I said ‘all the clocks have stopped here’. Listening
was the key in the steamy dusty square. Because no one
was listening but me. No one watching but me,
or those white thin bodies of trees, the thinnest trees,
like sticks in the ground, the skinniest trees I’d seen
in six weeks of travelling. At the fountain,
gentle upsurge, pattering, translucent on the stones,
I placed my hand under the flow for an instant,
to feel how cold it was, cold enough to burn,
already hurting. There was a loose wet stone,
I bent to retrieve it. She said, ‘no you can’t have that’
and batted it from my grasp. Dear wet lonely stone.
Then I knew how far away I was and how I could never
get back home. She dragged me to a solid white building –
a dozen faces like mine, hollowed out, excavations
with their little name tags and suitcases and their missing
of themselves. I didn’t want to go there but I went.
Cool immersion, then on the wall a giant railway clock,
stopped. I pushed through the mannequins
to a door with no lock and shoved it free to find fences
so tall even a deer couldn’t leap them and no one
was looking but me. No one was listening but me.
Traffic by John Baylis Post, Castletownbere, Ireland
She knew four languages well, speaking and writing
-fluent, grammatical, literate, precise-
too many to be useful in a small village near Pec'.
Now she knows how to say ‘darling’ across the atlas.
Glistening neighbours tuck someone else's notes into her thong,
carefully not seeing her or the smears of cheap foundation,
embarrassed by kohl-dead eyes trying not to engage.
Her passport was taken from her; she has no image.
Her clumsy, raucous new friends want not to know
and she half-remembers, half shuts into a dream,
the wistful stench of the lorry and the promises.
Not an au pair, not equal: a depreciating cypher.
Her crumpled, contraband dollars bought her forgetting,
badly waxed stubble, the shadow of innocence, white lady,
detachment, estrangement, the distance of hands brushing skin.
She never writes home. No language can bear her meaning.
Vanishing Snows Donna Pucciani, Illinois USA
In the morning when I wake
my breath comes shallow and regular,
slow as the drifting clouds in a dark sky.
I listen to its passage in and out
of the calm of my body. I am alive.
And when I rise from the warm bed,
the new year appears in its utter darkness
just as dawn nets a lemony sun.
It’s been a snowless winter,
full of false promises. Pure drifts
used to gather in city streets.
Now children live in tents, or capsize,
mothers are led away, fathers
are handcuffed at the airport.
Oceans rise even as water becomes
undrinkable. A universe of small selves
disintegrates as the day begins.
What billionaire brings us to our knees?
What foolish folk pray for salvation
while a man living in a cardboard box
starves under the viaduct? A singular brokenness
greets the morning with a crooked smile.
I want the snow again, that visage
of innocence falling from a lost heaven,
covering the brutish rhythms of politicians,
cloaking the monstrous rich with a blanket
of newfound conscience.
May I not die before the guns disappear,
water runs clear in glass and river,
and bread falls from the sky like bright snow.
Tomorrow when I rise, everyone will have
a roof, a book, at least one pair of shoes.
Words from many pens will exhume
buried truths in a syntax of the heart.
Raft of the Medusa by Maurice Devitt
The sea swells and the boat bares its teeth,
stands tall, pushes into the crowded waves.
His skin becomes porous as he clutches
loose handles of air, weight drains
and his arms are like ribbons flapping,
his face flattened by the wind.
He feels himself swallow the storm,
gulp it down until it rages inside and out,
eyes rolling in concert with the sea. No time
to consider the sacrifices made to get here,
no time to scan for the cropped shape
of Lampedusa, for now he must scramble
with the flotsam of death, swaddle his son
against seething eyes and treacherous hands,
count every breath, forget the words
for panic and fear, because today
may never spell tomorrow, and hope
is impossible to calibrate, when every hour
seems to sneak in extra minutes and the men,
who survived last month, are found
smothered in an English lay-by.
First published in – Amaryllis feb 2016 http://www.amaryllispoetry.co.uk/
NO PLACE by Derek Sellen, Canterbury
There is no life for you here, said the sands,
edging each year closer to his village.
There is a seat for you here, said the truck-driver,
who took him on the highway to the coast.
There is no safety for you here, said the thief
who stole his bags as he slept in the street.
There is a space for you here, said the boatman,
but the price of the crossing is high.
There is death for you here, said the sea
as the waves rose taller.
There is a chance for you here, said the soldier,
who treated him as a brother.
There is no home for you here, said the woman,
we have closed the frontiers.
There is passage for you here, said the smuggler,
showing him where to jump the lorry.
There is no rest for you here, said the gangmaster,
who teamed him with twenty others.
There is a cell for you here, said the police
when they came to arrest the illegals.
There is no place for you here, said the immigration officer,
no place for you anywhere, my friend.
2nd March 2017
Air Mail by Sharon Black Gardoussel, France
She struggles to understand
the man behind glass
pushing the parcel back to her.
His words rush like a monsoon through slums
churning silt and mud
until she feels she’s drowning.
Please - madad karo she says,
the phrase trickling over her lip
like the holy water at Tungnath temple.
But he doesn’t help –
waves her on, shaking his head
as another customer pushes past.
A poster of stamps reads
Birds of the World
each depicting outstretched wings –
she thinks of ioras swooping and diving
above her village shrine where she used to lay
sweetened laddu, rose petals.
First published in her collection To Know Bedrock (Pindrop Press www.pindroppress.com) www.sharonblack.co.uk
1st March 2017
let’s call a spade a spade then by Caroline Carver, Cornwall
how do you define hunger exactly?
not enough food? food shortages?
more than that brother
more than that
even a handful of flour
is something to rejoice on
should we say starvation then?
limbs like dried branches?
more than that brother
more than that
perhaps deprivation’s the word yes
I will write deprivation in my report
say the nation is threatened by famine
there is extreme scarcity and drought
stubbled fields bleached white
children light as grass I will say
the only water-holes are dark pools
in the faces of children edged with flies
brother you must add
one more thing in South Sudan
children are not counted as souls
until they are one year old
first published in SUBMISSIONS TO THE BROADSHEET sep 06 issue