One book closed, another opens, a new leaf each day
a dangerous crossing on the Mediterranean sea,
experiences new, strange sea, enervating
new language, sounds, melodies, tastes to savour
slowly settling to a new rhythm, adapting to change.
The memories flash in the inward eye, shadows never
forgotten, picking an old book, thoughts like a flowing river
invisible, shimmering in the starry nights, dream scenes
On the sea, waves beating like silent drums, turning old pages
Dog-eared, much loved, scented, wrapped with emotion.
They waited for buses at the border,
Their churches, hospitals, homes destroyed,
they’d carried what they could,
seeking safety in Kurdistan.
Their faces betrayed fatigue,
uncertainty, lack of hope,
but children, confused,
posed for the Scottish photographer.
I’m reminded as I grasp these images
that I also took a photo that day.
My Easter eggs, to display on Facebook.
I’d waited for a bus in Ripon, a train
in Harrogate to take me home
carrying a bag of chocolate eggs and bunnies.
‘These should keep me going for a while’
I said, seeking likes, comments.
Next day I returned to work at the hospital,
passed cobbled streets, the Minster, the bar walls.
i will never understand
why such atrocities are commonplace
from one faith on another
and brother tortures brother
destroys our homes and
we cannot build again
because no skilled men are left
and our lives are filled with pain
mothers, sisters are bereft
as they watch their children starve
bodies left exposed
there are no graves
but vultures fill their bellies
reporters come and write their stories
take their pictures
as we board a bus
to who knows where
a displacement camp
across another border
there is no law, no order
just another programme for the tv
and nothing changes
At least everyone has a seat,
for now. The parents look solemn,
the children simply blank.
This is not an exciting trip.
There’s no pretty dress
at the end of it, no birthday toy.
There’s no knowing
where the bus is going,
no pleasure in the wondering.
They’re tired before the journey
starts, tired of falling asleep
to the sound of shelling in the dark.
The bus idles in the dust
of the street, the rubble of ruined
buildings that used to be their homes.
No-one comes round to take
their fare but they have paid
a million times over.
I am the little girl
in the aisle of the bus.
I am clean. I have
clothes and food
but I am empty.
Only my eyes can speak
for all my words are dumb.
Blown away in the blasts.
And still I have no tears
for my mother cannot
comfort me. She is gone.
My father cannot help
for I saw them kill,
make a mess of him.
I hear the roar of it,
taste the smell of it,
feel the hole where
I cannot find my heart.
I like to stand in the aisle
keep my balance for then
I know that I am moving.
Someone said we leave to find
a safer place and behind me
a mother sings soft words.
I know one of them. Shalom.
It means something they call
On the Buses
Families on the buses
a trip to a new place
I remember the stories
Dad told me
day upon day
passing towns, villages, borders
Picture of Misery
As these Iraqis sit waiting
crammed together on this bus,
there’s no blood and guts and gore,
just babes in arms, toddlers, children
teenagers, young and old
adult men and women,
with ferocious sunlight bleeding through
the faded pink curtains
casting shadows across their faces.
There are no smiles or ripples of excitement
at the prospect of leaving their homeland
prey to the warring factions
backed by regional or global forces
who feign interest in pouring oil
on Iraq’s troubled waters,
while they mop up its’ spoils.
Though crammed together on this bus
many have their eyes downcast, lost
in their own worlds of loss.
Only one child of around four looks
straight into the lens as if questioning
the world we take for granted
and already she has unlearned
that habit we learn from our parents
of smiling for the camera.
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