Amir Darwish came to the UK as an asylum seeker during the Second Gulf War, hanging underneath a lorry on a cross-channel ferry. In his second full-length collection, he seeks to rescue refugees from the popular media image as perpetrators or victims, reflecting on the trauma, suffering and pain of the world’s 22 million refugees, what they have left behind, what they have lost and where they have arrived. Dear Refugee is a book about emigration and immigration, departures and arrivals, longing and belonging, love, loss and exile.
Be thankful to the roads, Their stones as they lie before you To the sky that generously shows you The moon dangling its legs in your eyes, Say thank you to nature, to the rivers who feed The earth to feed you, Be thankful to life and earth When they knock open your heart.
On the margin of a forgotten camp We want to live with pain With sadness With agony With trauma We want to live With or without food We want to live With thirst With enemies or without them We still want to live Under a torn tent leaking rain at night we want to live We want to live At the long queues for clothes we want to live With every step we take towards death We want to live With every tree we pass With every pride swallowed, we want to live With or without our children We want to live With or without our parents We want to live We want to live Because we love life.
From the earth I come From the heart of Africa From the kidneys of Asia From India with its spices I come From a deep Amazonian forest From a Tibetan meadow I come From an ivory land From far away From everywhere around me From where there are trees, mountains, rivers and seas From here, there and everywhere From the womb of the Mediterranean I come From a mental scar From closed borders From a camp with a thousand tents From a bullet wound From the face of a lonely child From a single mother’s sigh From a hole in an inflatable boat about to sink From a bottle of water for fifty to share From frozen snot in a toddler’s nose From the tear on a father’s cheek From a hungry stomach From a graffiti that reads, ‘I was here once’ From a missing limb Like a human I come to share the space.
I left that table with three books, a tea glass dirty An ashtray The TV remote still lost somewhere between cushions A wall with a mixture of rotten green broken yellow light A small window into an empty street A lonely white tissue blowing in a ruined alley I left a pregnant apple tree A sink full of pans from last night’s meal My plate among them with a tulip I left half a bottle of red wine near the bed Money notes wrinkled A belt with broken buckle The painting in the corridor The tearful man in it has his hand on his cheek The forest behind him is as huge as the memory it left behind I left a tape-recorder a lover once gave me Playing the Kurdish singer Mohammed Sixo Singing ‘Oh the land Oh the land’ I left my school desk engraved with my name The teacher who lectured me every time I brought a poetry book To school instead of my homework I left the old corner shop Containing a debt book That has my name in it I left a pair of new shoes The yellow laces I bought To go with them I left my mother who used to call me when it was time to eat I left a generous father who used to bring home bags of figs, apples And occasionally a roast chicken I left home.
The news has just arrived That the red wine bottle is still in its place Unmoved, Untouched Half empty. Near it there is a broken window An open door and a woman crying by the corner The liquid inside the bottle rattles every time A tear falls then it settles again The dust of falling buildings Has covered the full half. And I am here I can no longer lift the bottle up And look to see how thick the wine is Or what I can see through it. Nonetheless, the news has just arrived That my wine bottle still stands.
I love the leaf that falls in spring The peck on a toddler’s cheek before nursery The water as it steams in the bathroom The remnants of hair in the shower I love life The full moon in your eyes The sun filling my own I love the roads like a network of veins I am an immigrant and I love life.
‘A person with a refugee background carries with them a lot of memories from the faraway home country, both good memories and painful memories, but – what is striking – also a strong belief in love and in its capacity to win.’
‘This is a collection written from the heart, reflecting and articulating the rawness of exile and the refugee experience. Darwish’s grief, anger and longing is expressed in an direct yet understated elegiac mode in which wry humour, a deep humanity and an ethic of solidarity combine to create, despite everything, quietly optimistic poems of honest affirmation.’