Two Poems

Photo credit: Ramsey Mathews. 


“I Can’t Breathe.”

Eric Garner


O beautiful for spacious skies,

         His tongue

For amber waves of grain,

         Four-hundred-year motto

For purple mountain majesties

         Of murdered black men

Above the fruited plain!

         Arms scissor-wing & slice July air

America! America!

         Chokehold empties his chest

God shed His grace on thee

         & paints his sky bone & sinew

& crown thy good with brotherhood

         Yaw & pitch rush out of him

From sea to shining sea!

         Like a stain on cracked concrete


O beautiful for pilgrim feet,

         Or wicked stinging nettle

Whose stern, impassioned stress

         He will fly

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

         Above thunderclouds of racism

Across the wilderness!

         Where selling untaxed cigarettes

America! America!

         Does not equal the cost of a life

God mend thine every flaw,

         His eyes know

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

         This is reality

Thy liberty in law!

         Frederick Douglass, “When justice is denied


O beautiful for heroes proved

         Neither persons nor property will be safe.”

In liberating strife,

         One cop, judge-jury-hangman

Who more than self their country loved

         The cult of alt-right white nationalism

& mercy more than life!

         The YouTube video of his death

America! America!


         This is not a jury of peers

May God thy gold refine,

         No guilty murderous officer

Till all success be nobleness,

         A twenty-second death row on video

& every gain divine!

         Eric’s eyes have seen the glory


O beautiful for patriot dream

         Of the coming of the Lord

That sees beyond the years

         His emancipation plea

Thine alabaster cities gleam

         Fails in a puddle of himself

Undimmed by human tears!

         Intolerance cuts deeper than knives

America! America!

         Fatal freedom in his eyes

God shed His grace on thee

         His litany of loss eleven times

& crown thy good with brotherhood

         “I can’t breathe.”

From sea to shining sea!

         Eric’s truth marches on.



Sarah's Great Grandmother's Crèche


Weeks before the moving truck transports

         Sarah from Austin to San Diego, she follows

her mother’s lead when culling the cargo. Sarah drinks

white zinfandel & lobs cheap dishes

         over her shoulder to disintegrate

on the brick kitchen floor.


Years ago, during the family’s fifth Army

         transfer of three daughters, a dachshund

& a husband stationed in Germany, her mother

shattered dishes, danced a Texas

         two-step & wept. Sarah bubble

wraps mom’s porcelain,


the brass lighthouse lamp of two boyfriends past

         & her father’s golden eagle lamp. She marks

boxes with Stuff, Kitchen, Office, Bathroom, Vibrators,

& Etc. Stuff contains rambling journals

          started twenty years ago when at six

she wrote her first short story


about the rapture & a talking frog. She never reads

         her stories to anyone, especially her two sisters.

To the homeless woman near the railroad bridge,

Sarah gives a midnight-blue down comforter,

         a white night-gown & her favorite

yellow bath towels imprinted


with red pigeons. Under a strawberry moon, she perches

         on the front porch the three two-inch tall Buddhas

that held dominion over her apartment -- one soapstone

big belly Gautama, one cobalt guy seated

         in the lotus position, one a wandering

jade monk with a tote sack slung


over his shoulder. All three disappear during a sluggish rain

         before sunrise. Single now, Sarah doesn’t worry

about divvying furniture. The kitchen table & two unmatched

chairs wait on the curb after no sale at the garage sale.

         Free. Boyfriends & throw away furniture

can be purchased anywhere, but the California king




is too compatible after hours of sex, naps & reading

         & easily packs sideways against one wall

in the U-Haul. After her father’s heart attack, she felt

like the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

         Respectful. There must be value in Black

Widow’s orange label, Uriah Heep’s Vertigo Swirl


& the six apple crates full of platters. A red, white

         & blue arm cast signed by Evel Knievel.

Two Ken dolls, one as the Cowardly Lion & one

as Nicolai of the Russian military. Dad’s shaving kit,

         his Korean War uniform & the Owner’s

Manual to his ’48 Roadmaster Buick. One Craigslist


collector claims he also fought in Korea. She doesn’t want

         to haul her father’s ballast, so she keeps dad’s

shaving kit, the Buick manual & a picture of her father

& pregnant mother standing on a Key West bridge.

         In the black & white photo under horn-rimmed

glasses, her mother’s gothic lips caress a cigarette.


The one-piece bathing suit clutches her cantaloupe belly

         pregnant with the baby brother Sarah never knew.

His death not the death of newspaper human interest. No cancer.

No drunk driver. No drive-by shooting. A stupid fishbone

         lodged in his throat & a contagious hospital.

Her mother’s left-hand cradles the boy in her belly.


Her intrepid smile wrestles the sloe gin sorrow of her eyes.

         Sarah sells her mother’s silver wedding rings

to a pawnbroker. She hides the heirloom photos on her iPhone

& never tells her sisters. Her addiction to books looms large

         in the living room. Djuna Barnes, Thelma Forshaw,

Lydia Davis & Lyudmila Ulitskaya. There is William Faulkner’s


fury & Tom Clancy’s Red October abandoned by lovers

         who desperately mimicked manhood’s panache.

Microbiology she almost flunked & Organic Chemistry

she took twice. Books make her feel smart, so Sarah stuffs

         twenty boxes of books in the box truck & shuts the door.

Sarah’s great-grandmother’s crèche occupies



two wooden cigar boxes. The haunted theology full of birth

         & death crumbles as she opens the first box

adorned with a faded yellow rose. The mythical dwelling

resembles a lean-to built by Bobcat Cub Scouts on their first

         camping trip. One wall fallen & half the roof

missing. People & animals of the nativity populate


the second wooden box. A dog looks like a wolf. An ox

         sports the horns of a steer. Something resembles

a camel. There are no swaddling clothes. Joseph & Jesus

disappeared into dust, but a silhouette of the Virgin Mary

         remains. The wise men are smaller than Sarah’s

three discarded Buddhas, yet these patriarchs


are not rotund & happy. The sinewy magi, with bedraggled

         beards & torn tunics, trekked across the maddening

desert on a rumor. After myrrh & frankincense, the three

no-longer-wise men loiter outside the ramshackle manger

         with nowhere to go. Their ancient eyes glaze

with the clang of celestial ennui. Sarah tries to remember


the motivation for owning so many things. Why buy a Nordic

         Track? The marketing is not that good. Why buy

two crock pots? Why buy two coffee makers, one Mr. Coffee

on sale at Target & one mail order, thousand-dollar Grindmaster.

         Why buy a DeLonghi Magnifica espresso machine? Why buy

six cloisonné vases that never hold lilacs, real or plastic? Why?


by Ramsey Mathews

Take a look at more of his photographic work at:

Three Poems


Dark Energy

Black inhuman plumes of entropy ascend from bombed Iraq wells and exploded tanker cars in Quebec

Great black snake sways its many-eyed head as it tries to find a way south from boreal tar desolation past Lakota drum-shields

Black coal soot coating the earth’s lungs paling to ghost-gray and pink coughing froth as all Beijing becomes a forbidden city

Capital intelligent black cancer swirling in the eyes of executives commands them to create Venus climate in the skies of Gaia

Blackness invisible in well-lit rooms and cubicles rises through the floors to form face-eating mirrors like liquid obsidian

Despair transmutes to viridian light in alembic hearts as voice-crowds face down the black uniforms of planetwide extinction

Energy of convection flows between black outer robe and white inner robe of a Bedu woman soaked in sun



In wind is this flicker-country, is fret screen woken to afternoon

where you, apple tree, wave in shadow narrows between houses…

In wind, in westlight your mottle on wall upshifts to opposite forest,


it unblurs in a sparrow motion, mimicking flutter-down or settle

to quick pecks and adjust, sidestep, shakeout of feathers in focus—

In wind you pendulum stem-spiders, dark hooks, rearback scuttle


down on wing shivers in the tangle, or dry-mandible each other—

In wind your shade-jungle diagonals, of stalky eaters, of tooth-leaf

leaning peer over trail, draw small peddler hero flailing in his climb


to the dance gardens, veil-tremble overhung with nods and kisses

In wind you dangle a puppet battle, filigree soldiers in spine-gear,

in dragonfly capes, lean side for parry and stab, twist or fall still,


In wind your quickness palace, awake statues and eye-move hidden

by alcove, by curtains restless up conjuror stairs, by sudden stars—

In wind is your semaphore, your flat-array-only fruit of motion


takes up shit-mutter, stiff day-nod between these us non-neighbors,

you turn all to air theater, hung gamelan of whisper-discs all angles,

In wind your shake-web of thought, story leaves loose to meeting.


[syllogism 3, 2000]


The Season

No longer the Sea

with its necklace of fishbones and collapsed marinas

guano spatter              reeds               algae stink

it’s the desert they want


Huge mobile homes and RVs  

painted in flaring stripes and swirls


one after another

south on  the 86

race bikes racked in back       jeeps in tow

pull in at Arco oasis

tacos water beer cigarettes ice         fuel

right turn        out along the Salton Seaway

corrugated into asphalt waves          

they     ride     like      ships

headed away

from the water


Gather on bare flats         backdrop a looming arc

of stark gray-pink scree slope mountains runneled

by gone rain

scrub-dotted in slate twilight             Assemble

temporary suburbs      wheeled oblong bungalows

spaced             well          apart          

just like home

faraway burr of diesel generators

blue propane stars under grills

lawn chairs      chilled six-packs


Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

where they park


sedimentary layers     buff      taupe   faded rose

ancient Pacific floor

tectonic uptilted          then weather-planed off

under traveling cloud shadow

winding canyons and arroyos            

ghost rivers where water once found ways

no flow in years

but wind


Now ORVs and dirt bikes buzz and snarl along them

swarmingmetal insects

eat the dry

Martian silence

piloted by boys in helmets visors masks

tight coveralls

patterned with death’s-heads or flames

so many

fine dust plumes rise  merge into     beige haze

under pale blue winter vault


their other plumes invisible


clear          refined            aromatic


not just the engines    theirs and parents’

24/7 A/C   fridges             lights


while the young riders faceless in their spaceman gear

veer bouncing along washes

track ruts between     sandstone hill hummocks

low mesas                  

like those desert kingdom princelings

carefully taught

never to pick up what they drop


After they pass

scatter crows return as silhouettes on ridges

quick rabbits   re-emerge to nibble

coyotes    nosingresume the hunt

the vague dust       slowly


the carbon

keeps going

the desert forgives  it is made   of abraded time




Adam Cornford

Two Poems

Literature is the very essence of that fabric which binds life with living. I have always striven to be a keen student of the subject and do not essentially measure it in numerical impetuses it may bring in terms of what mark sheets might testify and or a long list of publications but in engaging with reading, language, words and its nuances. As a semblance; for me, literature embodies those subterranean hinges that cannot be reached mechanically to its core but in the sheer pleasure of revisiting, rereading and re-engaging with its seminal discourses.

Every piece of poetry and prose is an attempt to create layers to be savoured. It is a known dictum that it is imperative to make sense of the world we live in and the core of humanities is a broad river; metaphorically put, to encompass this ideal. After all, like Walt Whitman observed; "That you are here—that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."

Sneha S.

Syria Remnant on Frankfurt Station


               Wake up from this dream of separateness.

Shvetashvatara Upanishad


    Whada  , a Syrian refugee mother living in Zahle, Lebanon, holds her young daughter,   Waffa  .   Waffa   has barely spoken since losing her father and her home in January 2013.    UNHCR/E.Dorfman / May 2013


Whada, a Syrian refugee mother living in Zahle, Lebanon, holds her young daughter, Waffa. Waffa has barely spoken since losing her father and her home in January 2013.

UNHCR/E.Dorfman / May 2013

In the elegiac thermometer

she measures time

not as day or night lurking

upon an audacity of revolution


but in sounds of her homeland

the last scream of infants,

throttled into the sleep of death



The epigraphs of lost people

are carved beneath meanings of

silences, absences and gaps,

in Derrida’s deconstruct,


like a Buddhist therī uncloak

her last attachment to the material

over the head of a faraway mountain.


The scents of

faint memory

a stillness artefact

prancing upon her palm,


as she caresses

leftover embers

of a broken doll,

inanimate in her

broken dreams,


lovingly held

by the juxtaposition

of dismemberment,


tattered fabric fibres.

two passerby’s comment,

‘there is no space

                      this is our homeland’


displaced senses, mister,

do not fathom where they

are brought by the wild winds

that blow ferociously


upon the downtrodden

in political propaganda

poetry knows nothing of.


Meanwhile, she plays

with the doll

of broken limbs

in the quest of

broken smiles

upon her lip columns.



Freiburg Lodge


Palimpsest Bible

translated into three

different languages:

English, French, German


as though the tongues

that speak these languages

are the only readers of the Book


‘but, you are a poet, darling,

you often hear things they don’t say

and construct meaningless words


that do not feed the poor

after Sunday mass,

every line you write is like asking for alms,

waiting to be fed

                  while as torrential rain falls

and hits upon the windowpane,

a host of black umbrellas

opened in mourning diverge into

different routes.

Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a student of literature and culture at the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom and has been awarded the prestigious GREAT scholarship. Postcolonial literature and literary theory and criticism are her areas of research interest. Her work has appeared or is to appear in Front Porch Review (IL, USA), Ann Arbor Review (MI, USA), Sahitya Akademi (India), moongarlic (Stoke-Upon-Trent, UK), Anti-Heroin Chic (NY, USA), Spillwords (Poland), Epigraph Magazine (Georgia, USA), NEW QUEST journal (India), Kitaab (Singapore), Chitralipi journal (India) and in poetry anthologies such as Dance of the Peacock (Hidden Brook Press, Canada), Suvarnarekha (India) and elsewhere.

Three Poems

Public domain CC0



The worst thing that can happen is not to have a home.

I’ll keep working on the flower codes.

Witty is not witty anymore.

Her heart began to have gender-psychological.

We may be allies, but we will never be friends.

Everyone over the age of 10 hates Christmas.

Not knowing the subject matter but enjoying the whole thing.

Shyness is a type of lie.

The chef is worried that if we don’t begin to serve he won’t be able to synchronize the courses.

Its people like you that give people like you a bad name.

Remembering when you had to change your watch manually while traveling.

Our gazes never meet.

Is it still ladies night?

Totally lame last thing to say to someone.




Feeling terrible for a good reason or feeling terrible for no reason at all.

Dream of having a new lover who looks just like my old lover.

Suicide by cop is not on my bucket list.

Are you really trying to compare misery indexes?

Instead of producing a bunch of things for a bunch of people, producing one thing for a bunch of people.

A poetics that is just an explanation.

Do you not notice all of the end of the world crap going on right now?

Most people fight their dark side.

The woman will eat cake but will not drink.

Always the opposite of important.

There is no line.

We have to find a monk, and get him to talk.

How the Q&A session reflects the audience.

Only two of the original cast members remain.




No purpose or goal or objective or subject matter.

A philosophy of sickness in which everything must go down, then up.

How long do we hold hands until it gets weird?

Secrets have a way of getting out.

The Monroe Doctrine and the culture of cultural appropriation.

Woke up confused about the similarity between the words blush and bluish.

Your weakness is your sympathy for others.

I’m not kidnapping our roommate!

Slow as sunrise.

When sheep eat people.

We need to go back and get punished for swimming in the lake.

If I have to hear the word doppelgänger one more time, I think I’m going to have to learn how to spell it.

A dream of being on the 3rd floor of a building with no 2nd or 1st floor.

The almanac as feminine.


by Carrie Hunter


Carrie Hunter received her MFA/MA in the Poetics program at New College of California, edits the chapbook press, ypolita press, is on the editorial board of Black Radish Books, and co-curated the Hearts Desire Reading Series. Her chapbook Vice/Versa recently came out with Dancing Girl Press, her full-length collection, The Incompossible, was published in 2011 by Black Radish Books, and another, Orphan Machines, came out in 2015. She lives in San Francisco and teaches ESL.



The Protest

a found poem


While the crowd waited to be led away

one by one to be handcuffed

and sent for processing

at a police operational centre


— a procedure expected

to take several hours —

a man started reading poetry

and the crowd hushed to listen.


by Greg Santos

Source: The Globe and Mail, an article about a mass arrest during the Montreal student protests of 2012;(



Greg Santos is the author of Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA from The New School in New York. His writing has appeared in The WalrusWorld Literature TodayGeistVallum, and more. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and teaches creative writing to at-risk youth. He lives in Montreal with his family.


Lorenzo Federici 2, by Walteroma10 (Distributed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Home Movie

The day in-the-life of the city sympathies

the equivalent of a default value

to direct (re-direct) the representation

you make a mistake when you stake that

analogy as orientation to exploded facing

frames: Esther Shub (Strike, 1925)

              Bill Brand (Coalfields, 1984)


what has already happened

when the airstrikes happen

and you think you see them:

did you catch that clip of the Movie Camera without a Man?


In the recounting,

we hear what someone says about an event

that has long since happened while we see

‘authentic’ archived images of the event itself.

Does this strategy not confer

greater truth-value on the spoken word than it deserves?


Is the spoken word not a re-enactment

in its own right, an interpretation aided by hindsight

and motivated by an implicit point of view

shaped over time? Testimony and commentary

give priority less to what happened than to what we now know?


The camera can give you “the feeling of being there.”

The apparatus detached from the invisible body

and the matter of authenticity is finally resolved.


The authenticating location heightens credibility.

Empty your clip until ordered otherwise. The gap

between the moment and its capture is up for grabs.

How can it be organized within a single controlling frame.


Conventions of all kinds for one kind of imaginary,

the motivated subjectivity of the authoring of affect.

The reality-effect,

those accused and those accusing others

without addressing the peculiarity of the camera

on its own, put on display in the distance we inhabit.


That captivating glimpse of sustained

chance, being in the right place at the right time

and the state of mind it induces (anything can happen)

the rhythm of physical motion without the mind


Believe you me,

the enunciator, the one that “voices”

what you will see and hear was really there

the uncut footage freed the image from its moorings

as definitive as surveillance records

and that includes not a single spoken word


(Brakhage’s tremulous hand-held camera)


the pleasure of the viewer in the unexpected


(the American Direct Cinema School)


words have drifted apart from their body parts


The technical potential of the apparatus

if what the camera saw was ‘raw’

“On the Road to the Real Nitty Gritty”

(Film Quarterly, Summer, 1964)


“If the material was not spontaneous, they said,

how could it be true?”


“a piece of ‘authentication’ inserted

into the rhetoric that sustains its force

as the legitimate referential weight”


a tradition of

“meeting the reality of the country”


Did you find yourself looking away

from what was coming from the screen


that was life captured in a roll

the camera, uncontrolled



by Kevin Magee

Among other publications, Kevin Magee's poems have appeared in Conjunctions, Indefinite Space, 580 Split, Parthenon West Review and The Capilano Review.  Three books of poetry are currently out of print: Tedium Drum (San Francisco: lyric &, 1994), Recent Events (San Francisco: Hypobololemaioi, 1995), and Proletariaria (Espoo, Finland: Blue Lion Books, 2005).


Concrete blocks placed by the military on the western access road to the Masafer Yatta area. The houses of Khirbet Jenbah are seen at the bottom of the valley. Photo by Osnat Skoblinski for B'Tselem.

A Perilous Hejira

Photo (Brian O'Callaghan)

As Midas like governments protect their oft ill-gotten gains and move to reinforce borders, a narrative of fear and violence is steadily building regarding forced migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The Mediterranean is turning into a mass grave and many ASEAN countries willfully continue to ignore the plight of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. These issues are hardly a new phenomenon in our global history yet they are being pitched as a malapropos catastrophe. The humanity of displaced people is not being recognized under laws. There is a blatant and all-encompassing refusal to see the humanity of others. Highly restrictive immigration policies are being enforced across the globe, denying innocent civilians’ safe haven from wars that are ironically often started by the very countries that now choose to close ranks. With supplies unable to get into besieged towns in Syria and Libya in flames and run by militia, individuals are understandably fleeing for their lives. In Syria, the alleged use of chemical weapons, civilian massacres and torture have forced millions to flee. The media line regarding asylum seekers, forced migrants and refugees is predominantly negative. However, 80% of the world’s refugee population is hosted by developing, rather than developed nations.

Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are seen as ‘other’, they are not us. Once the ‘Other’ is seen as a threat to ‘our’ sense of nationality, then ‘we’ learn to “demand their exclusion from the sphere of human values, civic rights and moral obligations”. We must critique the whole process of the handling of refugees and migrants, as Agamben writes, “It would be more honest and, above all, more useful to carefully investigate... [the] deployments of power by which human beings could be so completely deprived of their rights... that no act committed against them could appear any longer a crime”. Perhaps most of the general population cannot conceive or emphasize with migrants, asylum seekers or refugees because they live comfortable lives far removed from the threat of war or displacement.

Ardalan is a former Kurdish refugee who eloquently transported me back to the dangerous scenes that paint one section in the tableau of his life. The year was 1996, he was 9 years old, a life in its tentative first act. He said “In the middle of the night we were forced to flee from Saddam Hussein, me, my father and my 3-year-old brother. My mother was out of the country visiting relatives in Sweden. She had no clue of our whereabouts for months’’. Ardalan and his family were forced to make a perilous journey with no belongings, to wait in camps that were blown to pieces by landmines. Ardalan witnessed the deaths of landmine victims before his very eyes as he tried to protect his young brother. His brother was then the same age as Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who last year, drown in the Mediterranean making the crossing to safety. Weeks and weeks rolled on into months as Ardalans mother waited in the cold north, unsure if they were alive or dead. This was a world before social media. Ardalan explained “that the universe seemed to contract and everything was slowed down, planes were cancelled, borders shut, and routes closed in a maze of shambolic bureaucracy’’. Like so many migrants and refugees who are forced into making these journeys to survive, the chokehold remains. Flashes of reprieve line up for introduction but are denied light. They feel unwelcome and unwanted in the bosom of this world.

Ardalan remembers, when they finally left for Sweden “we just kept thinking the plane would turn around’’. Finally, after months they were reunited. With confessional loquacity Ardalan dripped words like brushstrokes across his unknown history. It is a narrative shared by so many forced migrants and refugees. Without question the events that transpired in 1996 are forever etched on his mind but they don’t define him as a man. “As a family, we have put the experience behind us, we lived in Sweden for years but now we have returned home together to Iraqi Kurdistan’’.


Encouragingly, not all forced migrant stories end in tragedy, some take another arc, one that leads to family unity, where time carves solid educated characters that see displacement as temporary and it can be.

Imagine today, the frightened children holding close to their siblings. The distraught fathers and mothers, clutching their children and living each second perched on a stool above the precipice. Ardalan’s particular story is twenty years old yet nothing seems to have evolved. Let’s gaze into the emotional life of a migrant, it could be you or I, yet empathy seems lost on governments and on the far right. Is it a kind of cultural superiority that permeates an increasingly narcissistic society? Whether people are given the title of ‘migrant’ ‘asylum seeker’ or ‘refugee’, they all end up in the same boat.

The displaced people of the world are often a legacy of conflict or drought, yet they seem resented for needing help. Some of the world’s largest camps are in Africa and south Asia. It is hard to imagine the scale of these camps, some of which have existed for quarter of a century. In Dadaab and Kakuma, Kenya 402,361 and 124,814 refugees respectively, live in camps. The Kenyan government has recently announced that it wants to close both camps due to threats to national security. The Economist has reported “that the threat of closure is a desperate appeal for more funds’’. Camps are often on arid land and they rely completely on external aid. Ethiopia’s complex of five camps hosts on recent counts, 198,462 people, mostly Somalis fleeing drought and famine in their home country. People often sleep in the open. Millions of  forcibly displaced Palestinian refugees are spread across camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Thailand has a large camp on the Myanmar border called Mae La established in 1984, with 50,000 mostly ethnic Karen occupants remaining stateless. The plight of the Rohinya, one of the world’s most persecuted minorities is an issue that Aung San Suu Kyi refuses to address. More than 100,000 Rohingya in Myanmar continue to live in camps for internally displaced persons, prohibited from leaving by authorities.

Migrants are often stuck in rapidly deteriorating conditions at border crossings and ports such as Calais in France. Lone children are among the most vulnerable. There is a bureaucratic inertia that suspends resolution as officials engage in more ‘discussion’ with little foresight or strategy. The Geneva conventions are utterly useless in the face of this crisis and need to be re-thought. While Danish MP’s debate about seizing refugee’s valuables like the Swiss do, perhaps governments need to cut military spending and redirect funds to assist anticipated humanitarian crisis? The majority of refugees want to return home, if they have any homes left. Assimilation is a near impossible challenge for many and they are bewildered and fearful in a foreign land.

More than 10 million homes are unoccupied across Europe. 700,000 homes lie vacant in the UK, in Spain more than 3.4m homes lie vacant, with as many as 2m homes in France and Italy, and 1.8m in Germany. 90,000 properties stand empty in cities like Sydney alone. The numbers are staggering yet refugees and migrants wait in limbo to be housed in detention centers. Detention camps are often secret and run by companies for profit. The shocking and fiercely criticized off- shore Australian ‘processing center’ at Manus Island, Papa New Guinea is operated by Serco (before them it was G4S) and is so isolated; we don’t truly know what is even happening there. The inhabitants of Manus and Christmas Island detention camps are “stripped of every political status and wholly reduced to bare life’’ in totally inhumane detention conditions. All of these primitive detention camps will be in hindsight one of the greatest crimes of this age. It has been recently announced that Manus Island looks set to close but what is to be the fate of its 850 inhabitants? Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said that PNG “will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers currently held at the regional processing center, we did not anticipate the asylum seekers to be kept as long as they have at the Manus center.”

As the reality of the camp becomes ever more acceptable in society, we see that colonialism and racism are alive and thriving in the polis when individuals can be treated with fear and suspicion and housed in a secretive hellish limbo.

Are we witnessing the silent solidarity between humanitarianism and the powers it should fight? We witness the neutrality of many Humanitarian organizations, charities and a large swathe of the general public who refuse to comment on any of the actions of political regimes. The general public is happy donating millions of dollars to fund humanitarian aid, while showing great hostility and fear to those same suffering faces when they are a little closer to home sinking in boats off the coast. We have to understand our current political frame as a materialistic ideology and at the core of this ideological framework is the bourgeois nation–state, which bestows some individuals with ‘rights’ and progressively incorporates them into a body (the nation) and ‘others’ it disregards and literally casts aside. “As Kristeva (1993) argues, the nation is an effect of how bodies move toward it and create boundaries. The citizens become members of the body–nation, members to be managed, measured in certain ways, and contained (Minca, 2007).’’ So, if we now see with clarity the solidarity of government and humanitarian groups in this crisis, then it is up to ordinary individuals to lead. Sweden, Greece and Germany are the most benevolent European countries in ‘Fortress Europe’ right now but more must be done and quickly. As Turkey secures promises of €6 billion of aid in return for taking migrants back from Greece, let us be clear this is not a question of mere human capital for profit. We need to resist fear mongering around the issue of migrants, there are over 700 million people living in Europe, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide is around 60 million. With cohesive policies, bureaucratic clarity and community support these issues can be tackled productively. Public perception really does matter.

Refugees don’t need our self-righteous hashtags, men, women and children need our authentic understanding of their circumstances as they become increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking. The waves of refugees are coming. They need fair and transparent status determination procedures. They need medical, psychological and emotional support. We need to look at the root of the recent spate of attacks in Europe, the complexities of our cultural and religious differences and mental health issues caused by the trauma of war and life in the camp.  It is high time to review and renew the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and indeed all international and regional human rights treaties. They are us and perhaps we could one day be them.

Works cited

Guy S. Goodwin-Gill and Jane McAdamThe Refugee in International Law - Third edition March 2007. 

Rupert Neate – Guardian, UK, ‘Scandal of Europe's 11m empty homes, 23 Feb 2014.

Michalinos Zembylas- The Open University of Cyprus, Agamben’s Theory of Biopower and Immigrants/Refugees/Asylum Seekers Discourses of Citizenship and the Implications for Curriculum Theorizing (Journal of Curriculum Theorizing ♦ Volume 26, Number 2, 2010)

Interview: Source - (name changed) Former Kurdish refugee recounts his personal story of forced migration, Chiang Mai Thailand, 2015 – Interview by Brian O' Callaghan 

The Economist - refugees-bargaining-chips-kenya-says-go-home, 14th May, 2016.



by Brian O'Callaghan

Sea Figures

Credit: Cat Dossett over Betty Parsons' "The Moth" (1969)


In recent weeks and months, many small craft

have spilled their passengers into the sea.

A few days ago, I glimpsed a headline:

another ship capsizes, adds its share

of frantic cargo to the loss column.

Hundreds of bodies, or perhaps thousands,

are drifting with the migrating currents.

Warm, upwelling water lifts them sunward;

cold conveys them down, into dark layers

populated by strange, deep-sea species

whose bodies flash a blue-green semaphore…

Thousands, tens of thousands. Another score

is hardly noteworthy. Suffice to say,

the number who have drowned is some large sum.




Sine ira et studio, we don’t cope

with large numbers well. Here’s a simpler case:

Two men. Dead, washed up on the shore of Greece.

For the sake of this exercise, not black,

but something more conducive—Syrian,

say, and clean-shaven. (Don’t be distracted

by their eyes, how the red burst vessels seem

to spell out a fraught message… ) Make sense yet?

If you’re still confused, picture this instead:

A young boy. Just the one. In his red shirt,

lying face-down in the surf. Salt-water

mixes with the foam of blood in his lungs.

As a goad to emotion it works well

but as data, we know, it means little.


by Zak Bos