I am bothered by news from back home. Internal displacement in Mindanao due to the fighting between government forces and the Maute group comes to mind. Disturbing news of the growing number of dead from the fighting as well as in the dire situation at refugee centers.
And then, of course, there is the ever-increasing number of people fleeing their own countries in desperation due to war. They try to cross treacherous seas, and, even if they survive, they are rarely met with open arms. They face borders.
Borders, before they become fences and walls, are imagined. Applied to people, they can easily be turned into tools of abuse, tools of turning one human being against another, tools of forgetting what happens when those armed and more powerful impose their will on the vulnerable.
Listening to the radio this morning, I learned it was Refugee Day.
I have never been a refugee. I’m an immigrant by choice – by luck. Even as all of us can be struck with a longing for our place of birth, the place where we took our first breath, tasted water, touched mud, got blinded by dust on a hot day, we can only imagine the struggles of refugees.
I’m sharing my poem, “Like a Log,” which first appeared in The Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology VI. I’ve also posted a voice recording on SoundCloud. The link is HERE.
Like a Log
“I’m not going to tell you another story,
my boy. You laugh too loud,” grandfather said
as I begged. His voice sounded
like it was coming from the village well
before it was blasted. The stories he told
came from a time when the sky
was not yet something to be feared.
His eyes, clouded with cataract,
only saw white shadows.
But he could sense when someone
was stirring awake. He began to fade
into the damp wood. I whispered to him,
“I am afraid of the dark and the sound
of water splashing against the sides
of the boat.” Grandfather held
my small hands and then patted
the tied up bundle mother left me
before they threw her overboard.