And suffers and pains


[The information for this poem comes from a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald: Michael Gordon, ‘On Manus, a small fish flounders’, 18-19/2/2017, p. 21. The image is of a tragic mask outside the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. Refugees or asylum seekers attempting to come to Australia by boat are kept in camps on the foreign islands of Nauru and Manus Island (PNG) where they live in abysmal conditions without any hope of EVER being allowed to settle in Australia, even if they have been recognised as refugees or asylum seekers. This policy has majority popular support.]

And Suffers and Pains

When plucked from the sea
on the way to Australia,
he says his name is Ali
but he calls himself Eaten
Fish when he draws cartoons,
like his friend back in Iran,
the one they’d taken away.

At the Manus Island camp
Ali confides something bad
had happened when twelve.

Before that he was good,
and then he became bad.

Under frequent showers
he scrubs and scrubs
until he bleeds, but
cannot remove the stain.

He wears plastic gloves
to keep him from the dirty world,
avoids touching people
and doors lest he be entered
and leave himself again.

Eaten Fish draws cartoons
of ‘How people die
in Offshore processing centre’
or ‘Happy Bloody Christmas’
when Faysal dies after falling
in the isolation centre and Ali
could feel the pain he had inside
but could not do anything
to help him.
Eaten Fish wins
an international cartoonists’
award for courage
in editorial cartooning.

The stench of ordained despair
fills the huts, turns rescued
fish into sexual sharks always
taking bites out of Eaten Fish
the diminutive young man
with long hair, soft skin,
all that reminds them
of what they now crave and miss
in themselves inside this
hot and fetid belly of the whale
built of fear and collusion
with all that is small in ourselves.

Ali is isolated from the sharks,
then returned when his
allegations are not believed.

Each time he is expected
to speak of what happened
in Iran to the good child
he’d once been, Ali collapses
in terror, and so, to coolly add
another layer of abuse,
is stamped ‘bad’,
non-refugee: deport.

Now he is on hunger strike.
He says he has no energy left
to tell us his stories, says
I think you should give me
the right to die and stop this
torture, and suffers and pains.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on February 23, 2017.

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