From Poetry London
I carry twins in me
like dogs’ heads in a handbag.
They look like father and mother.
I have carried them as long as my memory.
Don’t let us stay where we start.
Don’t bury us where we are born.
From Index On Censorship 40th Anniversary Poetry Competition - Winning Entry
A girl of fourteen fires unseen bullets from her mouth
each time she opens it; at fifteen, they flare from
her fingers as she forms letters, with a stick in the dirt,
with a pencil, taking aim over a keyboard,
striking terror with each key.
I. W.A.N.T. T.O. L.E.A.R.N.
What Devil, what God, puts brains in a girl?
Minute, yet toxic, like radioactive particles,
a crack team's challenge inside a growing frame,
to be isolated, eradicated, before a woman's shape
makes them impossible to locate inside
all that emerging flesh.
Oh, it is vital work, viral, one bullet in the right
soft tissue blasts shut a thousand mouths,
myriad minds. One girl, one gun, one message.
I. W.A.N.T. T.O. L.I.V.E. Never mind
how you spell it. You won't learn to write it.
Bite down on your bulets. Slam shut the door
to the mind you might want opened
instead of blown apart.
From National Poetry Competition - Commended Entry
My brother is pretending to be in Vietnam.
He emails at Christmas from the basement,
how he loves Hanoi.
The Tiger beer, just fifty cents, funky kids
in fake Nike, riding fast on scooters
through narrow laneways of noodles or
gravestones, or Chinese lanterns. Pho kitchens
on footpaths, women carrying baskets
of bread and mangoes. Cyclos.
Boat rides through rice paddies
where people harvest stones.
An elephant in the back of a truck.
My brother does not want
to come home.
He emails us hourly,
leaves his firstname.lastname@example.org
He hopes a travelling mind will lift him
out from under our influence,
the wave of the New Year buoy him
to higher ground. We pretend
we can't hear him padding around
beneath our daily lives. Boiling
the kettle. Using the bathroom.
The weight of our house is great.
He cannot climb, one foot
in front of the other, up
I miss him.
at a strange and noisy pace,
that feels somehow normal.
"Mr Happy" travel agents.
The Temple of Literature. Women
carrying baskets. Elephants. Bananas.
Kitchens balanced on poles.
From From Word Bridges Young Refugee Project, Literature Matters Award
For Dana, Faadimah, Ibtissam, Maryam, Mohamed, Rawan, Rui, Sajeda, Sayeda, Sujoud and Tarek
(and with heartfelt thanks to Lucy)
You are a mountaineer.
Throughout the night you climb, pioneer
the airless heights of freshly fallen language.
From your base camp bed,
its pillow plumped with snow,
you lace up your exhausted boots,
fold your inedible map,
and ascend into your mind,
under a sky locked into silent cloud.
Frost-crusted syllables wait to trip you.
Misunderstanding holds its breath,
creaks its avalanche warning.
You cannot afford to risk
mistakes in the white darkness.
You carry no oxygen.
There is no respite.
You are ice and alone.
Your learning tongue tries to shape itself
around the impossible fractals
that chill, fill your mouth.
You stare at dimming stars as a stranger,
follow the night into new light
where the waking sun
exposes the sheer
face of your future,
the peaks dwarfing the dawn.
You have risen to meet the mountain,
the horizon your deepest breath.
You will plant your bright flag at the top of the world.
You fly all the colours of your family.
You have sung yourself into the sky.
You will dream yourself into voice.
© R. Harris 2019
And for more on this beautiful project, see: BBC News