Starved for choice by Helen Constantinou

Mama told me
There is no such thing as a clandestine sunset-
clementines rising, our dark clenched fists
holding them high in crisp meadows
Because we all have the same sky above our heads.

We are starved for choice leaving home,
borders writhe and turn like a playground game-
paperwork is hopscotch
and frontiers fray like hemmed skirts underfoot.
I don’t want to play this game;
they only let us in if we’re chalk skinned and sun starved.

The guard towers like the ash trees back home
that always felt protective
but it’s not me he is protecting,
scowling down with tanned maple leaf skin-
I shiver.

His Adam’s apple swells
and I wonder if he has swallowed poison.
Mama says
they gobble the phrase “take control”
until it means something,
until our dried blood makes sanguine borderlines
that they claim as their own blood vessels.
Burst one, they’re taught, and out bleeds order

But they do have a choice, she says,
they can help us if they want to,
snap those borders like a wishbone;

anyone can change.

It’s Not A Five Star Hotel by Anne Geraghty

It’s not a 5 star holiday.
It’s a desperate journey made in turbulent winds and a dangerous sea,
whispering silent prayers into the night sky,
in the hope they blow in the direction of compassion, empathy and refuge.
It’s not a 5 star holiday.
It’s holding your crying baby tightly to your chest,
while fighting nausea, as the boat climbs waves bigger than yourself,
all the time wondering, will we live a normal life again.
It’s not a 5 star holiday.
It’s anticipation of an ordinary life, with freedom, equality and justice.
It’s not a journey made in haste.
It’s an urgent need that drives them into a perilous and uncertain situation.
A desperate and dangerous situation.
One that requires courage and grit.
These people are not scroungers, they are fearless and admirable.
After all,
it’s not a 5 star holiday.

Crossings and Welcomes by Charles Whitehead

Welcome to Kent! Pull your boat up on the shingle.
Let’s get you warm and dry, have a hot drink.
I’d love to know which countries you’ve visited.
You must have some great stories!

You’ve landed on an island in Scotland.
Was that your plan? What are your intentions?
Don’t expect this can be a secret.
We’re telling the authorities, get ready for the spotlight.

I bet you’re looking forward to seeing friends and relatives!
There’s nothing like getting the family together, is there?
We’ll look after you, don’t worry.
That’s what we’re about.

I’m suspicious that you’re the first of your kind in the Western Palearctic.
Your home is in North America and you say you were blown here 5000 km by accident?
Can you prove that? What was the first country you landed in?
Well, the experts are going to check you out.

You’re a very mixed group in your boat: from Mali, Syria, Afghanistan.
I guess you only met each other in France for this crossing; that’s enterprising!
You knew exactly where you were headed, 40 km across the Channel.
You’ve reached a haven.

We’re suffering a pandemic, there’s people here to photograph you.
Better sing for your supper now, chop-chop.
How long do you think you’ll last here?
You’re on your own.

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