Thought

Tomorrow will come with a sunny spell,

the rain will stop at the border so

we will begin the long-waited rebellion,

as they say,

at the right moment.

 

To satisfy our need for greatness,

we will politely ask the just questions and

sit on the pew

in return for the hand-written answer.

 

We will finally go home,

or so we believe,

to master the only remedy left for pain – patience.

street-cafe-2

Photograph: @John Stadnicki, ‘Street Cafe’

Advertisements

Exile

leave-2

 

 

 

Witness to a repeated history

in exile I learn a new language

facing the border control

at Heathrow Airport I wear my mother’s coat

ready for a winter of politics

when I need to

I keep my mouth shut I change my name

to look just like her

white and uncomfortable

the blinding sun has been washed and

smells of violets

people are happy

in such a beautiful land

nobody minds me

amongst

wrapped-well-packed boxes

brushing the dust off velvet cutlery

the only remains

of life before baptism.

centrale-fs-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photographs: copyright@John Stadnicki, 2016

Bad Luck

The other day I had a fall in the bathroom

and cracked two ribs.

I have a black eye and a swollen knee.

 

Google says I should end up with a persistent cough and

the doctor recommends to avoid

laughter, hic-ups, children, smiling people.

 

Yesterday, I burnt my left hand with boiling steam,

I cursed and dropped the kettle on the floor,

then smashed the kitchen window with my fist.

 

Today I am definitely going to die so

I have now set fire to the house

ready to lie in bed wrapped up in wet blankets.

 

My next door neighbour pops by to say that

winter is about to settle in and

he ran out of tea bags.

Borders? I have seen one.

20150912_195340

Photo: ‘Border’, Maria Stadnicka, 12-September-2015

As the refugees’ crisis is widening across Europe, the public opinion becomes more polarised, with people supporting the Schengen agreement for settlement whilst others oppose the migration from the Middle East and Africa. In England, my decision to collect and deliver donations to Calais has been welcomed and facilitated by family, friends and work colleagues on one side, and criticised on another side on social media by a few online acquaintances which disagree with the idea of personal intervention in a problem that should be left to the international political factors. And this is how, on the way to Calais, the concept of ‘border’ started to emerge in my mind as my new British passport was scanned at Dover. Watching the ferry depart I thought of Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian ethnographer which summarised a valid point on this matter. ‘Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.’

With this is mind, I entered the refugees’ camp in Calais on Saturday and observed the difficult living conditions of thousands of mostly young men, lucky enough to have walked or travelled for weeks in search of stability and peace. Dreaming maybe to be accepted in Britain whilst waiting for help from a country which they see a promoter of fairness and humanity. Some have been there for months, others just weeks.

Thousands of tents were spread across the camp but there were people still living in cardboard shelters, in flip-flops and T-shirts with autumn coming and the rain slowly settling in during the next months. People I met looked at me with curiosity and friendliness. One welcomed me and asked if I had a good night on the way there. Another asked for a pair of shoes or trousers. And more and more slowly surrounded the van. But having just fifty boxes of supplies in the van made the distribution impossible. What about the people in need of supplies, which could not communicate in English, nor French, could not ask, could not arrive at the van, could not reach for my help?

People living in the camp need help and support, and donations are slowly going and are being distributed by very few charities and private companies as well as volunteers and locals. Packing and then safely and equally distributing food, clothing and other necessary materials to thousands of people is a process which takes time and logistics. This positive action can only be successfully delivered before winter comes with more help from volunteers and strong support from the international community. As the European budget is spent on numerous emergency summits, the conflict between decisional factors becomes apparent and the people involved in helping the refugees in Calais get a sense that the governments have no real understanding of what needs to be done on the ground.

The governments do not have understanding. But governments, with their complicated power structures, are not people. They are, at this point, the borders. Those volunteers spending their time and resources, dedicated night and day to help the refugees are my example of humanity as well as my hope. I have heard their names (Riaz, Maya, Christiane, Vincent, Clare, Toby) and their voices on the phone helping me help others. I have not seen their faces, nor their colour, but I have seen their actions, their beliefs and values, which made me write this to ask for yours.

 

IMG_4161

Photo: Volunteers receiving donations for Calais refugees, John Stadnicki

Monologue

She keeps on looking behind
at the corn fields,
her blue dress follows her skin
as she walks ahead of me
into the wood.

The colour of her ink has now changed
with her
everything reminds me of home.
When she leaves, the house leaves with her,
the noise of the smashed flower pots
wakes the neighbourhood up.

I am not awake:
dream her dreams,
jump out of bed at night to go to the bathroom
and yes! look at the box of chocolates,
shining emptiness,
look in her bag
for treats, for sweets,
for a word, for something
once the talking is done.

She reminds me to close the door
in the dark, tripping over her hollow slipper
yes! I suppose
the only surprise in solitude is death.

IMG_3551.JPG
Photo: John Stadnicki

Games

The winter Clara and I secretly discovered
what socialism meant
we had nothing left in the house
that was worth burning.
The frost surrounded the bedroom,
we talked to keep warm
and I suggested to
write on the walls.
We used the kitchen knife to
sharpen the coloured pencils
and kept at it for a couple of hours.
‘All western countries, enemies of the people!
Kill the foreigners!
Kill RONALD REAGAN!’
I thought Reagan was a bad name
for a writer which never published
books for children
and therefore he deserved to die.
My spelling was not very good at that age,
so the room filled with rainbows instead.
Clara and I laughed.
We were hungry at that point
and I remembered mother kept
the bible covered with cloth
on top of the fridge.
‘But wouldn’t god be upset if we eat the holy word?
Clara asked. For a brief moment,
my spine shivered.
Fasting was a great virtue indeed but
I believed god was good with children
and forgave all their intended crimes,
so
I lifted the shiny red cover,
sliced it in very small pieces
and added water and salt.
The feast kept on for a bit.
Clara and I chewed with determination
several chapters. We got to the page number
three hundred and two when I read:
‘Then there shall be a time of trouble and
at that time thy people shall be delivered,
every one that shall be found written in the book.’
And then, in the middle of our small apartment,
my hair curled, my mouth stopped.
I went back to the wall
and changed the words around: RO-LAND.

Selfie

I can see how the white cables
come out of your pockets and ears;
you darling keep the headphones
around your neck
with the elegance of a pearl queen;
your bed socks are full of music,
they vibrate when you sit
neatly on your side of the bed.

Under my half of the duvet
I’m in need of sunshine so I look
at the weather updates
every five minutes.

Just in case I fall asleep,
send me a text darling
to declare how much you love me now;
the words you cannot say
when we look at each other
will appear tomorrow
in the printed newsletter
you forward to all your followers.

20140323-213430.jpg
Photo: John Stadnicki