Empty Chairs

The empty chairs are not empty
they are fuller than before
when her husband
the father of her four children
did not yet have seaweed in his hair
eyes salted shut
no: he is still there
her heart ripped open is a
window through which to see him
his absence full colour
every time she goes to ask
where she left her keys
if he could chop an onion for her
hold the baby while she goes to the bathroom
he is there, ever-present
she starts each sentence forgetting
and chokes when he remembers he won’t hear
but he does, clearer than before
not distorted by the sea
the distance between his sandy bed
and hers
he hears her weep into the
end of her scarf
into her child’s hair
into nothing, for nothing
could absorb so many tears
and not weep itself
he hears and replies
I wait for you
as death waits for all that live
borrowing time they cannot pay for
It does not seize you
with a cold, skeletal grip
like cartoon deaths do:
death is a hand beneath
cupped to catch us
the ground that followed us
all through our living days
the hand we fall exhaustedly into
when we cannot walk any further
holding without suffocating
only accepting with quiet love
I will wait for you for as long as you need
time means nothing when
there’s nothing left to do but
wait

The empty chairs are not empty
but the hands are
hands that want to be held
to stroke the rough face
encircle the strong chest
those hands are empty
and will never be full again
not for all the gold in Europe

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Hidden Under the Things They Grasped

image

They carried a plague on their fingers

when they went to seek gold and sell guns

took a ruler and pen to a map

birthed nations by caesarean

sliced human terrain in hot places where

their germs settled into the hot skin

and they returned thinking

their hands were clean

only the sores on their palms were

hidden under the things they grasped

They took back their queen and flag but

the disease was marrow-deep

fed by fictions of our happiness

ads for things they cannot possess

because they are working in the factories that make them

films with white heroes and brown villains

until some took the bait offered

by canapé waitresses at arms fairs

grinning bankers offering loans to pay for it all

and one surgically created side

was pitted against another

so the wound never heals

And the sickness we gave them never left us

the pockmarks on our diseased body

are hollows in the wet sand

along the outline of our nation on the map

And we decry their assault on our fortress

calling their desperation

greed

€1,500 to board a lethally overcrowded boat

invasion

the desire for a safe home and enough food

threat

And while the borders grow metal spikes

develop a rash of guard dogs

ossify into concrete walls

a man and his wife

hold hands each night

and try to leap onto a train

travelling fast underwater

until they reach the promised land

or die

Update: if you are London today (September 10th) head down to ExCel (Custom House or Prince Regent on the DLR) to join the Stop the Arms Fairs’s Conference at the Gates, aimed at disrupting as much as possible the world largest arms fair:

https://www.facebook.com/events/702315233214060/

To The Rejected

An estimated 6,000 Rohingya Muslims have spent the last 3 months drifting in boats between Thailand and Malaysia, abandoned by smugglers, escaping ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

An estimated 6,000 Rohingya Muslims have spent the last 3 months drifting in boats between Thailand and Malaysia, abandoned by smugglers, escaping ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

There is an island
edged by razor blade reefs
sharks with butcher’s knife teeth
mines that bob so innocent but sweet
they ain’t. “The Boat
Of Starving Refugees That No
Country Will Take In.”
Bangladeshi or Burmese?
Ambiguities such as these
made you flee the enemy none
can imagine – lethally violent
Buddhist Monks – and
board ships crammed 3,000 full
paid traffickers to save you
but they fled, too. Now
Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand
all kick your craft back out
to open sea where you eddy
so hungry a hundred die
in a fight over dwindling food.
You, Rohingya, Muslims
even other Muslims reject,
have drifted for three months
thin as nails in a box
yet you are still an island
a strange foreign word
rolled around in foreign mouths
so on this side of the planet
few repeat it.
Around you spins a ring of roses
a halo of ambassadorial poses
that slice apart your visible ribs
whenever you try to escape your isle
but Rohingya, there are people
who wish themselves swimming
taking off their buckles
to bring you broth
who wish themselves winged
to drop bread and meat
over your heads
who wish themselves winds
that can push you homewards
who wish themselves land
that rises up through the waves
to form a new island
a home no-one will contest
all your tests have been directed
vertically, payment before the debts
and all the wishers and the yearners
are there with you
building shelters
planting trees
hives for bees
sowing flowers because you need
not only food and water
space to sleep
but colours
companions
schools
gardens
employment
arms to rest in
arms to feel blessed in
arms that accept
the rejected.

(Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32776647)

A slightly more cheerful postscript: South America to the rescue! http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Latin-America-and-Caribbean-to-Assist-Stranded-Migrants-in-Asia-20150517-0001.html