top of page

Angela Catlin




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.


The Case

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



So Tired


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!

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

      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.


bottom of page