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Angela Catlin







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,

civilians, refugees.

Their churches, hospitals, homes destroyed,

they’d carried what they could,

seeking safety in Kurdistan.


Their faces betrayed fatigue,

uncertainty, lack of hope,

most averted,

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.



displacement camp


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


nothing changes



No Knowing


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

cattle trains

day upon day

passing towns, villages, borders


Leaving behind





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.

Click on the gallery to find out more about their work!

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