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A refugee poem - Love in the camps

The Marooned Mirage 

(aka Refugee Fantasy)

I first saw you
Branded by the unyielding light
Out of the haze and dust
Amidst the brittle remnants of pasts dispersed.

The camp is suffocating in its size
Intimidating by its nature
Swollen to the horizon
And yet still inadequate.
We are as worthless as the shattered concrete
We left behind
Like the rest of the crumbling unwanted souls
Yet I am despised more by my own
For being today’s arrival
Tomorrow it will be my turn to condemn.

A hierarchy dominates
A once valued loyalty is for the fool
A neighbour is merely your closest enemy
Yet we all dwell beneath the rounded ceiling
That is torment
Keeping us in
Caged without walls.

You were waiting behind me
Deeper in the gangling line
A mere spot on a centipede
With your battered water container
Precious, yet unable to serve its purpose
A symbol of your dire trials.

I could ill afford a diversion
My mouth crisp
With the frenzy for relief
The offspring of depletion.
The wailing of the children
No longer tears at my heart
They merely present iniquitous competition
The need of the self
Renders exotic concerns void
An impossible luxury.

Despite the lingering decay
And the whispers of oblivion
You intimated to me
Without a word
In the only language
That makes any sense
In this prevailing chaotic mirage
An illusion too inhuman to be palpable.

But as time turns against us
And what’s left of my family awaits my return
The cold descends again
To remind us that she is Master
Malevolent but almighty
And we are forced to respect her rules
More honest than those of men.

I cannot surrender my station
In this sluggish bedraggled worm
As there are affairs
More valuable than attraction
And though I turn to the front
And hope to find you again
Amid the bursting muster
I wonder if I will have the capacity

To do a thing about it.

(An alternate version of this poem first appeared in the collection, Caged Without Walls). 


  1. Your poem gives a good sense of how desperation dehumanises people. "The needs of the self renders exotic concerns void." A couple of things have stuck in my mind about the refugee coverage lately, on the ABC anyway. Many seem to be more concerned about making a life for themselves, rather than fleeing danger. Too many times they say things like I came here to get a good job.

    1. Thanks for your comment Graham. I've heard that too and it raised some questions for me also. If that's the case, then two billion people will soon be on the move. I'm for allowing people a haven from war, then when its all over, return home. Otherwise what's the point of migrants quotas, and indeed borders? Tough in the current situation to assess people but rather than pass the buck, civilised countries could contribute to properly run camps. Big ones. And lots of them. Surely not that hard. A temporary solution to a (hopefully) temporary problem.

  2. You're incredibly gifted with the ability to put muddy feelings into crystal clear words.

  3. It's almost too large of an issue to fully comprehend. I just don't get how people can be so cruel and unfeeling towards others. Most of them just want to live. I agree that it can be managed, not easily, but it can be done. It seems like it's a "not in my back yard" kind of issue. Everybody wants somebody to take care of it. Great writing Anthony.

    A mere spot on a centipede....


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