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Refugee poems

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Cargo? ... notes for another way

with 50-something women at the helm
an armada of small craft and a network
of long-haired young men, texting
dates_coordinates_times, a naval officer
let's call her Jane, and an old man leaning
into his walker, a stay-at-home dad, a couple

of farmers and an albatross — keep track
of the next boat spotted in the Timor Sea.

at dusk, an ad hoc flotilla sets out to intercept
the 'cargo', bypasses Christmas Island, sails
or motors south to near Geraldton, where
a church van and an elderly citizens bus —
eight members of the CWA on hand
with tea and fruit and scones —
greet the new arrivals. the local pool
provides shower facilities and an Aboriginal GP

and a white nurse, both Jack, offer medical
assistance, inoculations, and jelly beans for the kids.
half a dozen interpreters arrive.
dark falls early. a welcome to country
follows — chatter around a campfire, a taste
of bush tucker. families disperse
to their billets, as country closes
round them all, not swallowing Korah and his sons

but adopting kin. the local school is in on it
and the market prints its own currency.
a collection of old bikes turns up from Perth.
in a place big enough to get lost, community
gardens appear at every camp. the elders
& the country & the ochre earth, the unfamiliar
scrub & the chameleon kindness of air — camouflage
the visitors, with only the surveillance of owls. 

Anne Elvey


Newspaper's black lines a web to avoid;
Sorry mate, I forgot my glasses,
what's the address it says down there?
Dole form a fortnightly exercise
in tactical evasion, camouflage
of well-tried tricks thrown over a lack
as gaping and dark as any man-trap.
Parents didn't read; teachers flicked
him too soon to the too-thick basket
where he has waited,
exiled from others' thoughts,
these twenty long years or more.
Refugee from the widest continent
of knowledge, erased from words,
can no-one cast a spell for him
to right himself;
                           to write his own tale?

P. S. Cottier

Go and open the door

'Go and open the door'
Miroslav Holub 1923-1998

Go and open the door,
stare at the bright blue sea
for boats
struggling southwards from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Feel the rippling fear of refugees
wondering if supplies will last
or a hand reach out
or turn and lock the door.

John Collard

Anne ElveyAnne Elvey's poems have appeared most recently in Going Down Swinging, Island, Mascara Literary Review and The Best Australian Poems 2010. The Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University, and Melbourne College of Divinity support her research and writing. 

P. S. CottierP. S. Cottier is a Canberra based poet and writer. Her latest book is A Quiet Day, a collection of short stories published by Ginninderra Press. 

John CollardJohn Collard has been writing poetry since he was 15. However a career as a teacher, principal, educational bureaucrat and senior academic has meant little time for creative writing. He has now taken early retirement and is catching up.

Topic tags: new australian poems, refugee poems, p. s. cottier, john collard, anne elvey



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Existing comments

A lovely start to another Tuesday. Did John Collard go to Kostka Hall primary school at Brighton Beach? I taught a John Collard there in '56, '57 or '58. I have happy memories.

Joe Castley | 16 November 2010  

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