The Red Suitcase
She hoists her life on to her shoulders,
the suitcase too heavy for her small frame,
her eyes too old for her years.
In another world her dad would carry
it for her, stick it in the boot of the car.
Her mum would carefully repack,
taking out the black nail polish
and folding her T-shirts flat.
Her red suitcase would stand out
Against the blacks and greys at the airport.
Here it makes her a target.
In this world she lives in, she ignores the crowds
around her, the dust flying up from the ground.
Uncomplainingly she shoulders the burden
of a life she didn’t make.
I saved all that I could
before we left Mosul.
I packed my case
in haste, no time to think.
How could we know
what we’d need?
How could we know
what lay ahead?
Our homes were destroyed,
all around us were ruins.
We didn’t want to leave
but we couldn’t stay.
What lay ahead, we couldn’t
know. We prayed and hoped.
All we had we carried
in our cases and bundles.
Who can imagine, who can begin to feel
what it was like - to leave that ruined hell,
to pack a case, to leave our home,
to pray and hope we’d survive?
Orphan With The Red Trunk
carries the world on her back
like a snail through the mire
bites her lip with anguish
with fortitude, with determination
peers straight ahead
at her peers she ran wild
with laughter and frivolity
in their playground through streets
praying it will soon be over
the fighting, the bombing
while seeking ruins of the house
that once she called home
where she would sit close with Mumî
where she would listen to Bavo
as he blessed dolma and kofta
their staple of existence but
they are long gone, no return
left to grow up on her own
faster by the day
darker through the night
wondering why it happened
in whose name was the carnage
an obliteration of her cosmos
the eradication of freedom
in her new world of a confusion
well beyond her grasp
yet she needs to become gihîştî
before she is a teen
before she parks her red trunk
amongst the rubble and bodies
praying someone covers her back
mourns for those who left early
the quiet time
there was a quiet time
after the murder
rape and desecration
i sat in silence for days
but they never came back
why should they?
i was all that was left
and now i’m gone
there is nothing in my village
no life, just ruins
only my thoughts remain
memories of my family
playing with friends in the olive groves
the pomegranate festival
and the horror
i found my father’s
battered red case
i am a kurd
and this is all that i have to declare
ANNE MARIE MADDEN
I am so tired - this suitcase is very heavy and I have walked a long way. I would like to leave it by the roadside because my back and my legs hurt butwhen we left Mosul, my mum told me that I must keep this luggage with me whatever happens as there are important things inside. I’d like to ask her what they are but I haven’t been able to find her since the last attack by Daesh. My brother Ahmad has disappeared too - I wonder if Daesh captured him to force him to join their army. But my mother does not like fighting. I don’t think they would have taken her to be a soldier. I miss her and my brother so much. I miss my father too even though he disappeared a long time ago.
I just want to be back with my family in a quiet house far away from bombs.
I used to sit in our garden beside the pomegranate tree and play with my little cat but I had to leave her behind when we left. My brother had to leave his pet bird behind too - he opened the cage door so that it could fly away but it just sat on its perch looking at the open door - my mother said we could not wait for it to leave the cage - we really had to go. She was sure that the cat and the bird would be able to find enough food outside once we had gone.
When I looked at my house for the last time I asked my mother if thieves might come and steal what we were forced to leave behind. My mother gave a funny kind of laugh and said, ‘They’re welcome to what’s left. Everything of any value has long since been sold to buy food - even my wedding presents.’
I miss my friends at school - even my teacher, although she had become so bad tempered. My mother said that was because she had so many worries. I hope that when we reach England I shall have new friends and a nice new teacher - one who is patient and kind.
My mother’s brother lives in England - he will look after us. I know that we still have a long way to go and that I shall have to learn a new language called English. I hope that it won’t be too difficult.
Before we reach England we will stop at a camp - I don’t know for how long. I have heard that the camp is already very crowded - I hope that we won’t have to share a tent.
I hope that Mum and Ahmad are already there and will be waiting for me. inshallah!
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Anne Marie Madden
Anne Marie Madden is a retired social worker who is a fervent campaigner for peace and works for Scottish CND and with refugees at the Conversation Cafe as well as for Dove Tales.