Transient Lives by Emer Davis

16536352701_702e66abf2_mWell the European Union is to lose a member. Maybe it will lose other members. Maybe it will be the end of the Union. What it won’t make a difference to (at least in positive terms), are the crises from Libya to Afghanistan that see thousands of refugees attempting to come to European shores. I am not going to get into the reasons for this fracture in European politics, which is as worrying at it has been since WW2. But one reason is not immigration. I don’t mean people didn’t vote with immigration as an issue, what I mean is that, whether there is an EU or not, it won’t make the slightest difference to these war torn people. And that is the shame of the referendum, which in my opinion should not have been undertaken. It was an ego trip of Cameron to have a legacy; well he’s got one now, but like Blair, it’s not the one he wanted.

Yes, the EU has failed the refugees, not least by paying off Turkey to keep them from making the journey. But that is not why people in the UK have voted to leave; setting aside the few on the Left, many of the others voted to Leave because they feel the EU has failed to keep these people out; that Britain can’t control its borders. If there is a problem, it is not with the numbers, it is more one of distribution; relatively large concentrations of refugees in a short space of time in small areas, without the necessary public services to help their integration. There should be a targeted investment in the community as a whole (both new and not-so-knew members); done in a way that doesn’t make people feel there is an unfair competition for services, whether for housing, jobs or school places. This is what we have done in the United Kingdom for many years. Not now. Not with an ideological austerity-driven government, who with tragic irony has managed to hand power to a small group of right wing demagogues.

20160107_080517The other sad irony of the decision to Leave is that the United Kingdom couldn’t be further away (in European terms) from the influx of large numbers of refugees. Added to this tragedy has been the fact that this has been left to the most crisis ridden country in Europe, Greece, to deal with it. Emer Davis shows us first-hand the situation facing Greece during this time in her poignant poem, Transient Lives. (Emer was selected as an asylum expert to assist the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) with the EU Relocation Programme on Lesvos Island). “Lesbos/Home to ouzo/And olive oil,/Cobbled lanes and wooden balconies,/The rambling stillness/Of the petrified forest,/Burnt skin trembling/Among dead trees,/We tremble in the evening sun/Re-telling the stories we heard,/And watch an old fisherman Bashing an octopus against a wall.” And then they come, the collateral of war, people who have “trekked across a terrain/Making their way to mountainous/Border crossings,/Slipping through a countryside/Complicit in their journey,/Watching them carry/Their broken memories/In their bags.” Then Emer really conveys the frightening experience of being in one of the boats. “Water seeping/Into their craft,/Swaying from side to side,/Waves creeping up their backs,/The engine fails./Luggage thrown overboard/They drift into the unknown,/Into the blackness.” One can only imagine what it must be like to make this journey.


Emer Davis, a poet and writer, was born in Dublin and grew up on Achill Island off the west coast of Ireland. She has lived in London, Dublin, Drogheda and Abu Dhabi. She has one book of poems published Kill Your Television and two eBooks published – Name Tag and To Tear Your Breath Away.  Her poems and short stories have been published in Ireland, Mexico, UK, USA and the UAE. Having returned to Ireland in 2014, she is currently working on a non-fiction book and a new collection of poems. One of her poems was published in Poets in Solidarity with Refugees anthology in 2015 and she worked on Lesvos Island with the Refugee crisis for one month earlier this year.


Transient Lives

Home to Sappho
The great poet of love and women
For lovers and women
Sumptuous words
Across the rolling hills.
Stolen moments
Instilled in young hearts
Tear stained fingers
Tracing old fragments
Against aging grains
Etched in fossilized wood,
Loss leaking
In the shallow splinters,
We find
Our misplaced lives
In the disjointed words
Left behind.

Buried in Sapphic metre
Hushed waves seduced
By crumbling volcanic eruptions
Our crimson stained toes lightly
Dusting the golden sand,
Sipping ouzo and sunset cocktails
We linger in the past
And embrace the broken words
Left behind.

Home to ouzo
And olive oil,
Cobbled lanes and wooden balconies,
The rambling stillness
Of the petrified forest,
Burnt skin trembling
Among dead trees,
We tremble in the evening sun
Re-telling the stories we heard,
And watch an old fisherman
Bashing an octopus against a wall,

They trekked across a terrain
Making their way to mountainous
Border crossings,
Slipping through a countryside
Complicit in their journey,
Watching them carry
Their broken memories
In their bags,
A new wave of families
Continuously passing through,
They walked towards the sea.

Huddled in abandoned
Deep in the forest’s edge,
They wait.
Deep in the forest’s edge
They wait in silence
Rationing the water on day five,
Hands outstretched,
Grabbing the last crust,
They wait
And surrender
To the gales whipping
The tumbled down bricks.

Sleepless bodies
Move forward
Carrying their past and future
In tattered bags,
Stumbling along the sand
They follow the voice,
Straw filled life jackets
Around their necks,
They clamour
Into the moonlit boat.

Water seeping
Into their craft,
Swaying from side to side,
Waves creeping up their backs,
The engine fails.
Luggage thrown overboard
They drift into the unknown,
Into the blackness.

A wild shriek
A halo of light
Falling onto their grey faces,
Etched in petrified stillness,
Their drenched bodies,
Empty shadows
Fossilized in fear.
Uniformed arms
Lifting the shells
Of worn out lives,
Wrapped in blankets
They step into the unknown,
Broken figures stepping ashore.

Home to stray dogs
And lost love,
Home to a transient crowd,
Ram shackled and dated.
They reach the courtyard
Cuts embedded in their toes
As they sink into the pebbles,
Lined against the wall
Loud voices reverberating,
They retrieve their lives
Wrapped in cling film
From around their necks.
Their battered cases
Dangling from their arms,
They leave behind
Their crushed hopes
And wade through
The mounds of mistrust
As they make their way to the pier.

Home to all the strays
Ancient fossils lost
Among still lives,
Home to a never
Ending flow
Of foreign accents
Wavering along the coast,
We sit
In heated terraces
Overlooking the winter sun
Wrapped in our dreams,
We surrender to
Sapphic metre
Dancing in time
To our own beat,
Shallow words linger
In a hazy night,
A faint whisper reminding us
Of the transient lives
Of others fading away.


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