Fleeing Syria's pious knights


The re-run

Splashing happily ashore,
they land amid the tanning limbs
then keep on veering north.
Not everyone has made it though;
a three-year-old with little shoes,
washed-up face down in Turkey,
is flicked around the world.

Google Earth within the palm
has shown them where to head —
though not exactly where
a phone can be re-charged.

The poorer half of Paradise,
is rolling out barbed wire,
remembering the Ottomans
in 1529.
The pious knights of 1640,
those fine sectarians,
who charged for thirty years across
the northern sweeps of Europe,
are born again in Syria
with new nomenclatures;
so once again the hapless
foresee it's time to move.

Doctors, dentists, engineers
straggle with them also.
Not all who flee are peasants, shepherds,
luckless artisans.
Mixed in with the cheerless too,
some Warriors of God who plan
Kalashnikovs for later.

There were some cheers in Munich station
but not all Eden proves to be
so free with food and toys.
There's something deeper in the blood.
They have that sense of déjà vu:
horsemen, pikes and princes.

We're back in 1640 but we
navigate by phone.

Playground 101

'Hello, Other Girl. I'm Milla',
she chirpily begins,
just gone two and proving fluent.

'Other Girl', we're told, is 'Freya',
somewhat shorter, no less smart.
Two mothers and a grandpa

are talking here together.
'Race you to the swings!' yells Freya.
A life-long bond begins right here.

As we converse, they climb and swing
and chase from this to that,
shouting backwards over shoulders.

Short or tall, there's no distinction
on dips and slips and roundabouts
as now two older kids appear,

a boy and girl of Milla's height.
We adults, keeping half an eye,
are following the plot.

Allegiances are all forsworn.
Freya runs away at speed.
With all this new sophistication,

Milla's hardly seen her leave.
She's climbing with the big kids now
but something's not quite right.

She's noticed Freya standing there,
forty metres off, as if
about to stamp a foot.

At this point, Freya, 'Other Girl',
runs to join her mother.
Our gossip's not much interrupted.

Then Milla comes up too and asks
'Why you cwanky with me, Freya?'
Freya, holding close to mother,

offers no reply.
The older two, the boy and girl,
who'd not announced their names

are walking off without a wave.
It's not quite practical to chase them
so Milla has another try:

'Why you cwanky with me, Freya?'
Our adult, anodyne there-theres
can cut no sort of ice.

'Time we all went home,' we say.
Playground 101. All done.
The future's on its way.


Geoff PageGeoff Page is a Canberra-based poet. His most recent books are New Selected Poems, Improving the News andAficionado: A Jazz Memoir. He also editedThe Best Australian Poems 2014.

Topic tags: Geoff Page, poetry, Syria, Ottoman Empire



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Existing comments

Playground 101: where some kids learn to love the library.
Pam | 08 February 2016

Brilliant! Incisive! A joy to the ear.
Uncle Pat | 09 February 2016


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