© Maria Stadnicka, November 2019.
© Maria Stadnicka, November 2019.
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.
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
brushing the dust off velvet cutlery
the only remains
of life before baptism.
photographs: copyright@John Stadnicki, 2016
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
Sometimes when both of us have dinner
The silent wolf stops by to watch.
I hear the knock on the window but keep
Looking at you and burst into fits of laughter.
We talk about the constant rain and
Listen to the tapping sound on the roof.
I offer you another glass.
The distant howl breaks the metallic echo in the room.
The ocean drips and drips
Cold over the plates, the table cloth
Whilst I wipe everything clean
Ready to hold new words between my beautiful teeth.
Mixed media: Maria Butunoi
I live in a round house across the road
And every day I wave the invisible white flag
Just to distract you from writing so many letters.
Other times, all I do is stare at your reflected image
Bent over the desk,
Thinking whether your back is broken
Having to bear so many words.
You do not lift your eyes up
Never see anything but yourself.
The only time you stand up and walk to the door
Is to refill the glass with sand.
No news from the outside world.
You do not know we are at peace.