lizbrownlee – poet

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National Poetry Day Message Poem by David Punter

The Ballad of Refuge

.

I come in fear. The wheels, the stuttering engine,

By road or wave; the endless killing payments.

Bit by bit, my mind returns to rubble.

.

You come in fear. The hunched back, failed bravado,

They make me squirm. You have no place here, brother;

Get back, for you remind me of my weakness.

.

I starve, I thirst. I’m out there in my millions,

Teeming, weeping. Just allow me, brother,

One foot on land. I’ll work hard for my pittance.

.

You starve, you thirst. What of me, of my neighbours,

Struggling in an austere land? The steel-plant’s silent,

My skills no longer fit, my hands are idle.

.

My hopes are gone. My suffering gods won’t travel,

My women cannot see, their eyes are blinded

By the long dust, the silent days of torture.

.

My hopes are gone. You come and you displace me,

The silent mills and fields, they scorn and mock me,

The Union Jack’s a shroud; all’s ripe for burning.

.

I call to you. Across the long dark waters,

Carrying a load of trinkets not worth selling,

Umbrellas, handbags, at the gang-master’s calling.

.

You call to me. I stop my ears with plaster,

My sons and daughters can’t afford their schooling,

My hospitals are full, the asylum’s broken.

.

My last cry sinks. Protect me from this hardness,

This cold that shrinks my soul. Pity me, brother,

Or think on me adrift on the long night’s calling.

.

My last cry sinks. Protect me from this falling.

The bailiffs come, the sheets won’t disentangle.

My homeland’s gone. God help us all this winter.

.

© David Punter

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