HomeEarth from outer spaceGeo-poetryAliens and MigrantsLooking BackRubbish and SurvivalSustainable NotesHumerous HumansCheese and IceThe Poetry of MathsBack Page

Refugee Children (www.amnesty.org)


Aliens and Migrants

When I first arrived in Norway (as a legal, EU-citizen, cross-border worker), I had to report to the Alien Registration Centre. It seemed a strange use of words, but I had to admit I was technically an "alien."  Since then terms for migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers have proliferated – illegals, invisibles, itinerants, down-and-outs, camp residents and the undocumented. 

More than 1 million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015. Globally there are currently 68 million people forcebly displaced (UNHCR figures). Sadly, many of these aliens have not been treated with dignity or access to basic human rights. Over half of the world's refugees are children.

The poem the 'Hope'  finds 'somthing little' within the modern seas of despair, while 'African Viking' tells the tale of migration and survival. In a cosmic and long-term perspective, all human beings are migrants and aliens.

'Newcomers' was inspired by the birth of our first daughter in our newly adopted land, but is really a tribute to the value added by new arrivals of all kinds. The sonnet 'Miriam's Tale' is based on that most ancient account of the rescue of a child refugee.

Hope you are inspired this collection.



Puffin, Iceland


There is little to be said for hope
and self-belief
when madness, stupidity and despair
are shouting in from everywhere

The odds are overwhelmingly stacked against hope
and a belief in goodness
when greed, vindictiveness and theft
are piling in from right and left

Who can possibly stand up for hope
and a slightly better future
when the world-wide-web of propaganda wars
are invading upon every shore?

How can the next generation express their hopes
for a world that is true
when past generations have messed it all up
leaving only trash to clear up?

Where on Earth is hope headed?
In God's name, where is it going?
There is so little to be said for hope
when it cannot find a pathway.

But hope is a tiny thing
Hope is a little child
Who thinks only of the future.

Hope isn't anything
unless it dreams and dreams and dreams
of a world with better things.





African Viking
(From the Iceland sagas of 2015)

Sand up the arse, grit in the teeth
Salted eyes and water-logged legs,
Leif hauled himself through the breakers
And onto the sandy beach.

King Olav had given his blessing
But battle and strife were the truer reasons.
A new world beckoned with beer, bread and honey
And, as they hoped, with return of bounty.

The transit camp at Smoky Bay
(Royke-vik the locals called it)
Had taught him a lot – lie low, stay hidden
But pounce like a lion when the bait is bidding.

The voyage had been tough, fearful and long.
Other ships had been lost in the storms of Vidar,
Thunder and his crew had been dragged from the cauldron,
But with the luck of Leif they had battled on.

And the new land looked good – green hills and forests
Game for hunting, fresh fruits and good lodgings.
Strange birds, familiar fish and some unusual beasts
Gave spell to the adventure and excuse for a feast.

Was Louisa well, would he see her again?
Would Erik be disappointed or proud of this venture?
These were the questions that filled the dark hours
While the threat of the natives was a persistent cloud.

Suddenly from nowhere the forces descended
Shots were fired and missiles flew past;
Run, hide, then fight, was his inbuilt instinct;
Cunning and fitness helped them survive.

So, we are not welcome – let’s move up the coast
Back to the familiar settlement of the meadows,
With songs of the homeland and warm happy voices
With fellows and travellers who share their resources.

This then is the tale of the settler’s camp
and this is the story of the perilous journey.
This is the man who held out his chin,
Who struggled and made it when others gave in.




Ice line - East Greenland, 2005 (Photo Philip Ringrose)





Reconstructed Long Boat at L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland


When you came, you came surfing
on the tops of the waves from the squalls and storms,
tossed between opposing shores of many nations.


When you came, you came melting
the snows and the ices from the chilling of relations
from the freeze of each successive generation.


When you came, you came crying
at the silence and the hardness of the stones within our hearts
to the hunger in the bellies of those in desperation.


When you came, you came smiling
at the frowns in the crowns of the men who pay the wages
of the poor who work in quite ridiculous situations.


When you came, you came curling
round our fingers that were pointing straightwards and outwards
to turn them inwards to point at our imaginations.


When you came
it was freshness and forgiveness
that was born, thank God.


And when we go
its only staleness and resentment
that will die, thank God.



Miriam's Tale

My trust was as buoyant as the water-borne basket, when the pitch
of your love had so fully filled between the wicker weave, which
was as sure as the brother who had brought the branches for the twist.
The smile which I threw as I cast him on the water, the breast 
that was his only moments ago and the band that held the swathes
which secured him tight, led my trust still further – a familiar bed 
was made. The gentle rocking motion and lapping of the waves
could never have prepared him for the tide that bore him down. Dead
were the hopes of those that went before him; bloody was the ditch
where the corpses lay; incomprehensible was the evil which
decreed his birth was punishable by disgorging death. But trust
I had as my only right – as child of the hopeless, trust I must.
Then hope was saved as the royal lady bathed; with a gentle kiss
she raised his head, as “Moses”, called me and said “Care for this.”






Moses saved from the water
Nicolas Poussin, 1638