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Tuesday, October 01, 2013


by Martha Landman

Survivors from an asylum seeker boat that sank off Indonesia say the boat returned to land after it hit trouble in rough seas and sank only 50 metres from the shore. About 50 people are either missing or dead, 30 of them understood to be children . . . One survivor told ABC News he had lost his whole family because Australian rescuers did not come when they phoned a day before the sinking.--ABC News, September 29, 2013. Photo: A section of the boat's hull washed up on the south coast of west Java.

Crude boats navigate open waters
Their cathartic hope a controversy.
A curious myriad of destinations
crowd the dreams of young and old voyagers.
Why are we called boat people, mạ?

Wind and waves swirl higher than hopes
the angry South China Sea a perilous journey
hunger, thirst and disease unstoppable.
Stave off pirates searching for gold.
Why are we called boat people, mạ?

Children battle the wind against rusted rails
their pleasure-filled shrieks fly above the sea.
Torn sails whip at seabirds sweeping from high
not a morsel found on the sardine-packed deck.
Why are we called boat people, mạ?

No school, no chores who cares about poverty
brilliant beginnings await on foreign shores
human remnants won't refuse refuge.
Merry gale winds bluster at 47 knots to the future.
How exquisite to be boat people, mạ!

A luminous moon at the calm end of the storm
dog-tired, famished crew fall into listless sleep.
Bloodied hands and chapped lips a small price
for the merciful miracle of freedom in a new land.
For how much longer are we boat people, mạ?

A snapped mast appeases the heavens
to save the haggard wide-eyed stunted cargo
with unwashed faces and unbrushed teeth.
Cold, stiff bodies a weary tangle at disaster's edge.
We had enough of being boat people, mạ!

The rising sun confirms the arrival of land
timid excitement hovers in empty stomachs
new hope floats up from a broken hull in the
early morning breeze — to be the new kid.
Does anyone want boat people, mạ?

Martha Landman
writes in Tropical North Queensland, Australia. Her work has appeared in Every Day Poets, Eunoia Review, The Blue Hour Magazine, Poetry 24 and others.