I wrote Refugees in response to a call for scores with the theme of the “road not taken”. For Syrian refugees in 2015, they could stay or leave their country, both dangerous and difficult choices. I was led to write this poem by a radio story about refugees from Syria, Eritrea, and elsewhere, in roadside camps in Calais, France, trying to cross the channel or go through the Channel Tunnel on the underside of lorries, for what might be a better life in Great Britain, especially for the children.
Usually, the “road not taken” implies what-if, a pleasant musing about other possibilities. But, for a refugee, what might have befallen the narrator if they chose a different path? If they choose to stay put, they are chancing the dangerous environment of war. If they choose the path of the refugee, that road is also full of risk, with little aid from the rest of the world. In my poem, one road, staying home in the war zone, is more certain — death for some or all of them. The road they do take is hard, but it might, just might, turn out better.
poem by Pamela J. Marshall
It was not safe. To avoid
the next attack, we had to leave.
We wandered, wondered what would happen next.
Left foot leading, then the right;
Interminable travel in the darkness,
searching for some kind of light.
We lost our way; we could not ask for help.
We had no guide to show us
green pastures of goodness and mercy.
We could have stayed,
it was not safe
we feared to die
we chose to go
Now we wander,
it is not safe
we wonder where
we might find a home.
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