“Rumor, the swiftest plague there is, went straight out
To all the settlements of Libya.”— Sarah Ruden’s
Translation of Vergil’s The Aeneid (Book 4: 173-174)
Packed tighter than the slave ships
that once plied these shores,
fishing boats with un-caulked seams
and hulls soft with rot push off from
the beach, people layered in holds,
sitting shoulder to shoulder, gunwale
to gunwale. Assured that Italy is only
hours away, they hear rumors of Europe
swishing in on the waves, watch hope
tread water in each other’s eyes.
– For the Mediterranean refugees of the second
decade of the Twenty-first Century.
(Originally published in 365 Days: A Poetry Anthology, 2016)
~ Roy J. Beckemeyer
Roy J. Beckemeyer was President of the Kansas Authors Club from 2016-2017. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was recognized as a Kansas Notable Book. His new chapbook of ekphrastic poems, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) is out, as is his new collection, Stage Whispers (Meadowlark Books, 2018). Author’s Page: https://royjbeckemeyer.com/
Matthew David Manning holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and Pittsburg State University. His poetry has appeared various publications including I-70 Review, Red Paint Hill, Rust + Moth, Kansas Time + Place, and Chiron Review. He recently became a father and has been enjoying his transition into high school education at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, KS.
Editor’s Response: As a teacher in a school with a large refugee population, I had to choose this poem. Roy does an outstanding job of capturing one of the most uncomfortable and commonly forgotten steps that refugees would often prefer not to remember. One student, a girl, told me that she was scared of being groped by one of the other refugees on her boat as they all piled on each other’s laps. A great poem.
3 thoughts on “Refugee Shores — By Roy J. Beckemeyer”
Even though I’ve read this before, the impact never lessens.
Bravo, Roy! A powerful poem.
Matthew, Diane, and Patricia, thanks so much for your kind words. This poem was truly serendipitous – I really was reading Sarah Ruden’s Aeniad at the time so many refugees were being lost in the crossing from Libya to Italy, and that conjunction of ancient history and modern events as encapsulated by her lines resulted in this poem.