[This is a little different from my normal poems, but somehow Owen’s WWI poem ‘Strange Meeting’, in which a soldier confronts the enemy he killed, seemed a good starting point for a poem about the current refugee crisis. The rhyme structure and metre of the poem are Owen’s, and I’ve borrowed a few of his phrases. The irony, of course, being that while in Owen’s poem there was a sense in which both soldiers were in it together, in this poem it’s about the powerful being culpable for the deaths of the powerless]
It seemed that I had left the leafy shire,
And found myself on some forgotten shore
Of endless sands, where waves of time had welled
From far across the oceans of this world.
I walked along awhile, until I slipped,
And noticed then that countless bodies slept
As if they meant to catch the sun’s last rays
Of warmth. ‘Come on!’ I told them, ‘Rise!
Oh can’t you see you’re getting in my way!’
But still they lay, and so I asked them why
They did not move. And then at last, one stirred.
A tiny boy, who sprang right up and stared
With eyes that filled with tears of childish plea,
And in those eyes I saw not joy and play
But just a black and never-ending hole.
And by those eyes, I knew we stood in Hell.
His face, I saw, was marked with lines of fear,
And so I asked him ‘Boy, have you come far?’
‘From earth’, he said. ‘From this shared earth I came.
So tell me, is that some horrific crime?
Or do you think instead I should remain
And take the blame for wars that are not mine?’
I shrugged, but as I made to leave the scene,
He looked at me and said ‘I am your son,
Yet when you saw me knocking at your door,
You did not welcome me or call me dear,
Instead you named these people here a swarm.
The waves of war are fierce. I cannot swim.
And so, while politicians talked and droned,
I fell into the heartless sea and drowned.
Can you sleep now?’