These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Refugee Boy

Refugee Boy - Benjamin Zephaniah
Bloomsbury Publishing 2001

I'm Ethiopian
  I'm Eritrean
  I am cursed
  I walk the line

like a lonely piece of flotsam
  in a sea of coloured skins
  I bob around east London

Sheila, Pamela and Mariam
  foreign faces 
  become my guides

I'm African
  I'm a refugee
  I'm uneducated
  I walk the line

a family moors my life
  my small room means a large view
  and Ruth becomes my sister

I'm African
  I'm just a teenage boy
  I want to learn
  I walk the line

I find friends I did not know were friends
  young friends
  school friends
  willing to march for freedom
  willing to walk my line

I am Alem
  I want to give
  I want to be 
  a light

without the line

Linking to:
Poets United ~ Poetry Pantry

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps this book disappoints- not outlining the tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia, not fully exploring and explaining the work of young Alem's parents, but the book is about the boy; the boy finding his own journey and his own rite of passage. We feel the incredible confusions he must feel - an alien culture and climate, a Refugee Council, a foster family, a new school and the whole disturbing, temporary arrangement of it all. And in the midst of all this darkness, appear some rather special miracles. Young people dare to face and challenge legal strongholds. An apparently indifferent girl becomes his sister. This book bridges and casts a rainbow over the many tragic chasms in our world.

View all my reviews + My liberation haiku, inspired by this book, is posted on my Haiku Songlines blog.

This story became a play - BBC Review 14th March 2013


Brian Miller said...

i love to hear peoples stories...and though there may be shortcomings in the book, from your verse i gather enough to see transformation and community which are def topics that interest me...smiles.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I always appreciate your poetical reviews, Gemma. You have a way of reaching in for the emotional weight of the book and give that to your reader.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Gemma, this is a touching poem and the book looks intriguing. I love peoples' stories. You have captured well his wish that there wasnt "a line"....sadly, all too often, there still is.

Sam Edge said...

haunting / searching / saddness - great poem and review

kaykuala said...

It is a shout to be heard, a voice of painful sufferings. A most welcomed book as it outlined matters and aspects of happenings and culture interestingly different from others. Brilliantly crafted Gemma!


himani rawat nayal said...

It’s heartrending how lives live through prejudice of society and how they strive for their more than bare existence, but your poem is much more; it also has hope.

Suzy said...

We're supposed to be the human race yet we draw up so many lines. Flotsam really brought home the message for me - great imagery there.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow this is really powerful

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