What a piece of work is man!
How bereft of reason,
how empty of all empathy.
In parliamentary motions,
how self-serving and despicable.
In action, how like a demon.
In comprehension, how like a clod.

A man came to my shoreline
In a rusty boat, and I in border uniform,
To seek shelter there.
On the choppy grey waves of the roughened sea
I came in patrol with my guns
And must wait, must stand and wait, while he struggled on to the deck before me.

I took my child to the water’s edge.
We walked the firm sand, foam
caressing our ankles. We watched
the surfers reading the waves, chest
and shoulders leading the curl
of the ocean, sunlight spearing
off the surface of the water.

I hear the voices at the station
In the pub on Friday nights
Heard them on the bus this morning
Again, at noon, at traffic lights.

There is boy, the whispers tell me
He is begging for a home
He asks for bread, a drink, so thirsty
We answer with a stone.

Like a princess in a palace
Like a whale within a zoo
Like a beetle in a bottle
Like a room without a view.

Like a rat that isn’t leaving
With the sinking of a ship
Like the thrashings of a swimmer
Who is caught inside a rip.

Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies up from the shore
and dress them in warm clothes again.
How it was early, and the children were bruised from inside their skin, and we
kept them secluded, washed over in our arms.

Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows
of homes ravaged by war and wear
and tear and tears; cavities where doors
once yawned, unhinged neighbourhoods
whose streets once bright with laughter
were fortified by alley cats, tobacconists
and clutches of gossiping women threaded
together by small children at play.

I can tell by the way the palms beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried tent
that a storm is coming to Manus,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without an old friend,
I can't love without my dead sister.

The governments nor rebels will not hold.
Townships will not hold. Memory will not hold.
The house you grew up in; its eaves; its attic will not hold.
The Temple of Bel, the Lion of al-Lat and the Ajakbach will not hold.
The pomegranates – the رمان – in the bowl will not hold.