A Thousand Miles
—to Ibtisam Barakat
I dedicate this to you,
my Palestinian friend,
walking a thousand miles
for all the other refugees
who had to walk
from war, from poverty
from genocide, from repression
carrying what they could
in a shoe box
or a bundle
To you I dedicate
this part of my journey
traversing over two
up a narrow country
sea wavering to the west
& hidden mountains to the east,
through lands of
olive groves & vineyards,
through lands of deserts
I dedicate this poem to you,
of exile—yours & mine,
of that Aymara man there
who stowed his bundle in our hold
& that small boy
with a shoe box,
the little we can carry
in this life
Poet-translator Lorraine Caputo’s works appear in over 400 journals on six continents; and 23 collections of poetry – including In the Jaguar Valley. She journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth.
Note: A Thousand Miles – which was originally published in The Missing Slate (21 September 2014)
The Secret Library, Darayya, Syria, 2016
but as a pilgrim resolute, I took,
even with the chance equipment of that hour,
the road that pointed toward the chosen Vale. – William Wordsworth,The Prelude.
From his post on the edge of what’s left
of his city – among rubble, hoops of barbed wire
and burnt out cars – he watches
through his father’s old binoculars
for black marks on a dirt-grey sky.
All clear he puts his rifle down, takes up
the small, solid block of a leather-bound book,
one ear remains on duty as foreign syllables
swim up from the page then cluster into shapes
his mouth closes round like cherries –
‘home’, ‘pomp’, ‘stone’, then
the strange musical ones he loves most,
‘empyrean’, dedication’, ‘magnificent’.
The old idea comes back to him, nudges
at the edge of who he once was – Pilgrimage,
the right to travel out in search of something holy
and to return to the sanctity of home.
Fiona L Bennett is founder of the award-winning project and podcast The Poetry Exchange. Her poems have been published in journals in the UK and USA including The Rialto and the San Pedro River Review and listed in competitions including the 2022 National Poetry Competition and The Bridport Prize. She has an MA (distinction) in poetry from The Poetry School / Newcastle University. She recently curated and directed the poetry of Adrienne Rich for Ballet Black’s, Then or Now choreographed by William Tuckett –– The Royal Opera House and touring Autumn 2023.
Notes: This poem was inspired by Mike Thomson’s Crossing Continents , Syria’s Secret Library, BBC Radio 4, 2016. Now also a book, The Secret Library of Syria.
This poem was shortlisted in The Wolverhampton Literature Festival prize
I grasp a rope and scramble down red soil
and schist to a deserted sweep of beach;
surrender my naked body to the turning tide
which sucks me into tug and shove, wraps
my arms and legs in yellow thongweed.
In Kabul, a dust sheet is flung
over Afghan women’s lives, paint rollers
white-wash brides on billboards, men black out
eyes and mouths on shopfronts, conjuring demons.
Soon, underlit by white quartz, the frilled sea
turns turquoise. Amniotic waters carry me.
I am seal: flipping over and over, nothing
but skin between brine and me. I am
amphitheatre of fern-coated cliffs, a rasp
of two crows on the wing.
Hélène Demetriades‘ debut poetry collection, The Plumb Line published by Hedgehog Press 2022. ‘The Plumb Line is a magnificent, soaring testament to the tenacity of the human spirit’. Fiona Benson. She won the the Silver Wyvern Competition, Poetry On The Lake 2022.
Note: The Unites States completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021. Taliban fighters moved into the capital, Kabul, on August 15, 2021