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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

Starburst: a poem for National Poetry Day

On a day in which borders are at the centre of our political discussions again, and the weather has dipped to the extent that any crossing of the Channel has become even more dangerous, here is a poem about migration, seen from the view of a border guard.



The night shift.

A cold, black sky above the port,

The usual banter,

As the lorries wait to board.

The uniform:

I could be anyone under this coat,

The firm but friendly tone’s not quite my voice,

But shared with yours - the state’s,

I hope I strike a reassuring note.

Three a.m:

It all kicks off, and the joshing stops.

We’re after them, with straining dogs,

The razor wire sends cut-throat shapes

Across a freight truck’s beams.

Starburst, they call it,

The migrants’ new technique:

They explode in all directions from the trailer’s side,

CO2 probes have done their work, but we’re down on staff;

The dogs go mad; we can only catch the weak.

Grey dawn.

Driving home in driving rain.

I pass them on the verge, heads low,

Thin sticks smudged against the windscreen.

On my radio, a love song plays.

Key in the lock,

Boots straight off, and the kettle on.

Tenderly, I move around the flat,

Run fingers over surfaces, check the kids,

Slip into bed and my own blank zone.

Next night,

It’s clear and there’s a glittery sky.

The tarmac’s wet and speckled with stars,

And I walk through them, scattering their patterns,

Ignorant of which will live, and which will die.

Mike Gould (copyright 2019)

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