This poem is from my new collection (2022), Roll & Break, poems about Titahi Bay where I live.
What if African refugees were washing up on our beach?
There is a sound of wet fabric dragging.
He shapes up out of the mist like darkness.
You see his face first. His black skin.
His jeans, heavy with water, scrape on stones.
He turns out his pockets, and the Mediterranean
pours out of them,
then he has nothing.
He stumbles. You rush forward,
grabbing his sleeve. It’s almost empty,
the arm barely there.
You have both staggered into the water.
Waves are sucking at his feet, at your boots,
there is no solid ground. You must get out.
There is another sound. A splintery line,
shreds of children, t-shirts slapped against their rib cages,
shorts clinging to hip bones, slivers of wood in their hair.
Their bony feet slip and clatter.
They hold each other
as though they are all going down.
The man in front of you straightens.
Water pours from his body.
The children behind him jerk and stop.
‘You!’ he shouts, into your face.
‘You in those boots!
What do you know about fear?’