Refugee Week June 2020 - poems from Write to Life

Original artwork by Haymanot Tesfa

I mentor with Write to Life, the creative writing group of Islington based charity Freedom from Torture. The uncertainty and anxiety of lockdown is very similar to the alienation experienced by refugees when they first arrive in the UK and are struggling to come to terms with loss and to integrate in a new culture. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, are usually housed in basic accommodation far from anyone they might know, and several have to survive on vouchers that must be spent at specific shops that may be some way from their homes. They have no idea when they will be released from the limbo in which they find themselves or when they can begin to rebuild their lives. 

Herewith four poems to give you an idea of the refugee experience. 

A Roof                                             
by Haydeh Ravesh 

I’m dreaming
I’m dreaming of a roof
A stable one
Stronger than cardboard.

A roof that covers
My fears and insecurity
A roof which
In the cold nights, wet and windy days
Can protect me.

A roof as big as
My love for life
A roof that stops
My worries for the future.

A permanent one
Under which I can
Feel, think and talk about
Love and my desires.

But my roof is only
The sky and its clouds
Dark and without any stars
My roof spreads as far as the horizon
But neither covers or protects me.

Extract from What is Love?
by Kayitesi

What is love?
Love is the thing that keeps you awake night and day
Love can be the best feeling in the world – and the worst
It can tear you apart, make you question
Everything you know
I loved my family so much
That I did not give them words of comfort before I left
My love for my children was unconditional
I could not imagine that I would spend years
Not sharing and showing my love for them.

What is love?
My love started shrinking slowly, bit by bit
After I realised that I was not with my family
The love I feel towards other people is little
It cannot replace the love for my family.
Sometimes I do not love myself
I blame myself for having left.

What is love?
‘This is love’ my heart replied to me
‘Listen closely and you will see.
Love is not loud
It is a quiet sensation.
It brings you peace.
It lives and breathes, it is alive.
It will guide your path, straight and true.

‘Be prepared for love
It will dispel your doubts
Cast out your worries and fears
Renew your faith and self-esteem
allowing you to fulfil your dreams
That is love.’

Original artwork by Haymanot Tesfa
The Voice of the Wind
By Aso

I can’t see your face
When your eyes close forever
But this blustery spring
Has a sound
Which brings cold tears to my lap
It blows your final breath to my ears
The wind helps me embrace your last heartbeat
I can’t hold your hand at the end of the road
My dear
But the wind brings me your perfume
I can’t talk to you and listen to your soul
But the wind carries your whisper
Your weeping and your loneliness
I am with the sound of the wind right now
And will be with you forever.

Why I Am Here
By Jade Amoli Jackson

I know why I left
The lion will leave you alone
After it has eaten a big lunch
But a man with a gun
Will not spare your life.

That man has no heart
And will kill a person
In the click of a finger
I left my country
To save my life
That is why I am here.

Originally published in Islington Tribune/Camden New Journal