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Originally published in “Writers for Calais Refugees” A Place to Call Home was published today in International Times.

 

A Place to Call Home

 Stichting-Vluchteling-The-Dutch-Refugee-Foundation-1

When what you flee from is
not what you want to remember, blood

washing streets, bodies decomposing,
sisters forced to strip down, gorged on like

the entrails of cattle by a dozen or so men
wanting things they have no

right to, but expect you, your mother or daughter to
pay, when what you run towards is

not what you expect, ephemeral like sad clouds
passing overhead or translucent lines of

steam rising from coffee whose taste lingers
only in your memory, when what you witness is

not what you had hoped, for yourself and the others
with you, unwashed bodies, smells of fear, loss,

helplessness, hunger that not even the dog on the
street experiences, huddling in the darkness as

you rise and fall on waves pounding through, praying
to any god that listens to let you stay afloat

balancing precariously on her many sighs
and heaves and not embrace you into her octopus

arms like she did so many times gathering others into her,
the dark skirts smothering only to vomit them up on

beaches, worn out, unresponsive, of no
significance, when what you look forward to is

not what you get on arrival, the snaking lines, the wait,
the taunts, the beating, razor sharp wires that brand

your attempts to scramble out, the sneers and most of all the
looks of contempt, you wonder if what you left behind,

however terrible it was, however cruel the sun shone, was
better than this, a living death – who can say if there

is better than here, but can you retrace
your steps to here that doesn’t want you anymore?

SHIRANI RAJAPAKSE

https://writersforcalaisrefugees.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/shirani-rajapakse/

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