How to get everything you ever wanted

1.
Invent a war.
Something bloody and fratricidal.
Lose an uncle to barrel bombs
a brother to secret police.

2.
Three years in, flee.
Pack only what you can carry:
clothes, smartphone, children, cash.
Slip away at night, in silence.

3.
Take your leave of the flat, bakery, office,
rubble-filled streets where the kids once ran
shell of the cafe where old men
drank qahwa, played sheesh beesh.

4.
Cross a border to camps, to life on hold.
Everyone knows someone who’s gone
before them, dreaming of better.
Here there is only the absence of war.
It’s not enough.

5.
Moving is what you do.
Railway tracks, verges, fields.
Rest in olive groves, wake in orchards.
One foot in front of the other
over and over and over.

6.
The world is cold-eyed border guards
sandwiches and blankets.
You never know what is coming.
One day, open hand. Another, fist.

7.
You learn the words you need
in a new language.
Arbeit. Ja. Nein. Thank you. Please.
The smile that shows you know to be grateful.

8.
Evenings you sit at the kitchen table
talk to friends in cities far away
about places that have gone
about old men who drank qahwa
played sheesh beesh.

9.
At night you dream of rubble, and of home.

 

migrationpoliticsrefugeessyriawar

◄ this will be a re-run

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Comments

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Philip Stevens

Sun 15th Oct 2017 09:24

3

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steve pottinger

Tue 22nd Dec 2015 08:48

Thanks, David. I'm glad the poem worked for you. You're right, of course (imho), that we shouldn't forget those who stay to fight. It's not an 'either-or' situation: we can support both those who do, and those who flee.

Should we expect someone who's been a baker or an office worker all their life to 'grow a spine' when faced with a level of violence and destruction most of us can barely imagine? I wish it was that easy.

cheers

Steve

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steve pottinger

Tue 22nd Dec 2015 08:42

Thank you, Stu. I wonder if the pressure not to cause offence, day after day in a place which isn't home, isn't close to unbearable...

cheers

Steve

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steve pottinger

Tue 22nd Dec 2015 08:35

Thanks, Tommy. I wanted to convey the relentless paring away – of so many of the things we take for granted – which takes place when you find you have to abandon your home. I'm glad it worked for you.

cheers

Steve

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Stu Buck

Mon 21st Dec 2015 22:14

this is great. it has real momentum (sadly quite cyclical) and number 7. showed me something i had never really thought about before but that must be very difficult.

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Tommy Carroll

Mon 21st Dec 2015 20:34

...and so it goes. An almost wearisome feel to this. Worthy of the time you took Steve.

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