by Kim Whysall-Hammond
I am haunted by a young boy, mid-teens
a lad like mine, seen on the news bulletin
scrambling over razor wire
raised to protect Fortress Europe
from the migrant tide,
From him and his like.
But these are children, boys
far from home, searching for safety
fleeing from disaster
Other ghosts have returned, living skeletons
toddlers the size of newborns
eight year olds that look like toddlers
flies settled on their blank eyes
And pot bellies distended with death.
Once more I weep, TV News plays on,
once more I am ashamed to live in paradise.
While the great majority suffers, watching their children die
or sending them on a perilous journey.
I don’t have to send my son away across a continent
to avoid death, to avoid being forced to be a soldier
to avoid starvation, disease, to escape that ultimate killer,
But if I believed that his safety was to leave home,
To go through immense danger to reach the promised land,
then I would surely send my son away
to make the journey.
Hope will take you through hell and back.
These are children, boys needing a home
needing to be children again.
They have been surely stripped of it all.
Each night I wake thinking of that boy
hiding in the bushes in Hungary.
I pray to a God I no longer believe in
to look after him, to keep him safe.
I want to give him a home, to hold him
tell him it’s alright, that we will look after him.
We are all family in the end, each but a moment away,
a moments bombing from displacement and death.
Wet brush blurs, bleeds one colour into the next
time is a wet brush, bleeding memories, blurring grief
until the pain of loss is subdued.
Not single primary colour
but smoothed, mixed, melted
not quite there, yet never lost
still in the picture but not the focus.
Only the truly obsessed, vengeful, bereft
or those whose culture encourages vendetta
can support impasto grief over the years.
Most of us accept the damp brush of time
as a comfort of sorts.
What if we had a bridge
arching across from Dover to Calais,
those twenty sodden miles
When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying in my heart
So lamented an English queen.
She did not mourn those she burnt for their errant faith,
instead she mourned the loss of France
and so I grieve the loss of a future, a citizenship.
I feel a stranger in my own land,
a place that does not now welcome strangers
And so I dream on
What of the Bridge?
My bridge will allow unrestrained passage,
no queueing as for ferries and tunnels.
No plunging in holds or holes.
Free for all to use, to travel, to visit and wonder,
symbol of a continent spanning union,
crossing and embracing
that treacherous dividing water.
The Channel, la Manche, Die Canael,
tsunami carved and whelped
eight thousand years ago.
Water has rended us from our homeland
isolating a people, a part of the family
descended from folk who spent an ice age
in Iberian refuges, scraping a living
on frozen steppes.
A bridge stitches lands back together.
Each paired support tower
will stretch into a nationless sky
peopled with immigrant clouds
shaped like wishbones.
Twelve long spans from coast to coast
thrust from long slender cantilevers, brightly painted.
Each welded with hope, passion, idealism
cemented with a desire for peace,
a need for no more wars on this crowded continent
no more millions lost, no camps, no enforced famines
no mass graves, lost daughters and sons.
Cars on the lower carriageway
wave skimming in winter storms
while walkers stroll on high in glasslike tubules
reminiscent of Tower Bridge
and trains roll on an intermediate deck.
Artists will be invited to propose
in themes of love and friendship,
family and future.
Smaller ones to add interest and diversion to the crossing,
larger ones to decorate whole bridge spans
to announce our fundamentals to those who use it.
So we will proclaim that,
despite the calls of tribalism,
the fear of other,
the love of home,
there is a indeed a greater home
Where we live and travel and work freely
know that peace and friendship
takes time and effort,
and sometimes the passing of an older generation,
and where we accept and cherish all.
The European dream is not lost in my islands
simply temporarily mislaid
in the kitchen drawer
of a misguided poplace.
It will survive, be found again
and once more grow.
An interconnected world
needs an intercommitted Europe
and my country needs it most of all.
like a sulky child, it does not listen.
Build me my bridge.
The overwhelming sky
The overwhelming sky enthrals me
shows me its magic, fills me with glory
layers of stratus, piles of towering cumulus
cirrus lacing glazes overtop
neon pink icy scribbling on an evening horizon
fireworks sunsets, pale sleepy dawns
reds, yellows, purples, greens overwrite the blue and black.
Gauguin, Picasso, Rothko must have felt this,
the Starry Night is truth, no wonder Vincent suffered so.
Genghis rode under this dome that encompasses all of our lives
did its pressure drive him to the cities for refuge rather than plunder?
The overwhelming sky appears to have no end
although I know that it is but the skin on the planet apple,
it bears down on me, conquers me
filling me up with its immensity
until I spill this burden of words
to offer them as sacrificial token
to try to explain this hold
to bid to exorcise it
to seek release.
But it is the master of me.
By the door of the living room
away from the adults
a girl dances.
Lost in her own world
lost in shadows
dreaming unknown incandescent things
that even now she cannot fathom.
But the echoes of those dances
float across years.
Each subsequent dance
at a wedding or festival
until she finds, in middle age
a need and urge to dance again
to feel the echoes,
sense the incandescence once more.
Kim Whysall-Hammond has a degree in Astronomy and earns her living in IT. Each of her Grandfathers told her bedtime stories about their adventures; escaping from Mining explosions, stowing away on ships and fighting for what is right. She always knew she could do any of that, once she cut her hair and so didn’t have to plait it each morning.