In the midst of an anxious crowd, a man
picks up his son. The boy’s sweatshirt says
“Happy Birthday to Me.”
His mother wipes his cheek with the edge
of her hijab. And they begin to walk.
That morning they waded from a dingy
in the midst of cries and wails
to throw their inner tubes on the rocky shore.
Someone gave them bread, and the mother
pinched a corner for the boy. He reached for it
with tear-driven hiccups. Their old life lay
firebombed beyond the water, the family garden
suffocating in ash, aunts and nieces gone.
And their new life was born at sea.
Tomorrow will bring the early signs:
razor wire, a gate. From a gathering stream
of travelers will come: Please open, please
Macedonia, please Sweden. Please
soldiers. Please God.
And their voices will interrupt the buying
and selling of the world. Their footsteps
will echo in the midst of a gale, not quite
a thunder but a purpose, the undying
will to live.
—Catherine Swanson (Marion County)
This poem first appeared in MennoExpressions.
Photo by Gaynel Bryan
Catherine Swanson is a poet and refugee advocate who lives in Indianapolis. Her poems have been published in literary journals in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain. Her chapbook, A Map in the Wind, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015.
Poetry Prompt: Poem Inspired by a News Article or Video
Choose a news article or video that you find moving. Using present verb tense, imaginatively recreate the scene. Through your choice of details—aspects of setting, action, and character—help others feel empathy for those involved.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.