The silent enclaves are

where gaunt footsore exiles

finally stop to rest.

Tolls can now be counted.


Pens which dwarf factories

are bound by just fences;

men and women queuing

are kilometre-long,


seemingly pointless and

far-ended by makeshift

grey bungalow longsheds.

Nobody is talking.


Things just happen slowly

on mats of scrubby grass.

Always coming, new clumps

of humans, dizzied:


weariness, the sheer scale,

the relief of getting

to some form of seating,

warm food, things such as tents.


The quiet fire of hope

flares quick and then slowly

shrinks, hands up its dark ghost.

It’s no match for waiting.


The eyes of these people

can be guarded and old.

Clouds hide all the sky here.

They are as close as walls.


Realisation draws

itself slowly and sure

on these long-lined faces:

resignation to time


and the lack of answers.

The mist makes these camps seem

not islands but the start

of the edge of the world.



Going slightly over to the dark side with this one. Obviously I was thinking of some kind of refugee camp, but where from or where I saw or read about it I don’t know. 1990 Gulf war aftermath? That would fit time-wise. But it might be that it was something that developed into a generic image my head as a result of a number of different things I saw on the news or read about over time. I’ve a feeling it was deliberate to avoid saying whether these were victims of war, famine, natural disaster or other cause/s. Just as well really, as to tie it to a specific place, time or event would, I feel, have stretched it a little beyond its credibility, which was limited by its not-particularly-well-informed 22 year old author (the photo is a much more recent one and I chose it for what seemed to be a placeless quality; something to do with the way you can’t see their faces. It’s actually from Libya). Having said that I think it holds up OK in retrospect. Just noticed, this appears to be another one where I experimented with a fixed form – 6 syllables per line – when I thought that Peppers was the only time I tried that out.