Mermaids And Sand

I thought the ocean floor was a place for mermaids and sand, and French singing crabs called Sebastian.

Now when makeshift boats cross the seas,
a thousand bodies row in false belief,
from torture, death and war they flee, we say..

‘Go back. There’s no space on our land.’

Frightened people dream of reaching little more than safety, we say,

‘Go back.’

As hands row for weeks, forward and back, muscles break, aching backs, we say,

‘Go back.’

As arms, pull forward and back and fingertips shiver and crack, we say,

‘Go back.’

As faces sit blank and black, thinking back to the neighbours and friends and homes and the horrors they had, we say,

‘Go back.’

As whispering voices break with fear, and eyes full, streaming with tears, and just as their boats are getting near we say,

‘Go back. There’s no space for you here.’

In a land where sheep graze gracefully on never ending rolling hills, and vodka spills from disco dancing hands.

Where grandma’s do lunch over sandwiches, three-tiered trays of Victoria sponges and rock cakes and scones, jam and clotted cream, where spoons stir our sugary teas, we say,

‘Go back. There’s no space for you here.’

I watched Titanic five times at the cinema, tears streaming down my cheeks as I heard the oarsmen shriek,

“Is anybody out there? Is anybody still alive?”

Flashlights on black night skies, searching for living…through freezing waters praying for shivering skins or whistle sounds, or splashing, or breathing or anything.

I used to think all flashlights in oceans were searching for bodies to save, I was wrong, Hollywood now gone.

Our flashlights shine in frightened faces, condemning foreign skins, we say,

‘Go back. This is our land.’

As babies sink into the kingdoms below, where crabs dance through coral and sea urchins blow
trumpets to welcome the new crowds of visitors as boats topple people into the party below,
and corpses line sea beds with nowhere to go, and mermaids sit singing to show them the way, I hope, at least they say,

‘Welcome, sit down, you’re safe with us now.’

Listen to the full poem by the amazing Hollie Mcnish here.