Erasing Voices: two poems by Claire Wilson

By Claire Wilson | 03 Feb 16



Fingers write with polished nails

white on black

right to left

left to right

they spell the same opinion

that she erases herself,

she’s learnt caution in both directions.


Between past and present voices

declarations rub out

before her mouth fills their shapes

with sound.

Ghost smudges in reversible lines

were once articulate, now the letters merge –

they were just words

too quickly erased to be remembered.

She moves right to left

left to right.


She chalks up translated doubts

to start a dialogue

between her selves in different places,

they leave nothing more

than stained fingers.

Her words in transit

leave behind a memory

in white on black.


Would you mind if I stayed here?


Must I ask?     Would you mind if I stayed here?

Your demands tinge my choices with regret,

My foreign skin leaves thoughts you seem to fear.


This place has buried me deeper each year

Repeated acts now hold me fast, and yet

I must ask if you mind that I stay here?


My questions hang too long to disappear.

I try to find the reason you’re upset

By foreign skin. What thought is it you fear?


Distrusting faces of strangers walk near

With loud opinions and ideas hard-set,

They make me ask: would you mind if I stayed here?


While I’m heavy with all I overhear

And daily calls to leave won’t let me forget,

I won’t ask if you mind that I stay here.

My foreign skin is just skin. Leave your fear.


Claire Wilson: Some years ago I worked with refugees on the Thai/Myanmar border where my concepts of home and freedom were challenged. These poems consider situations where people have to constantly be cautious about what they say as they can never be sure of who is listening, or circumstances where people’s freedom to move from place to place is constricted. These freedoms of speech and movement are things that we take for granted in Australia. For me these poems are a way to reflect upon the multifaceted experiences of migrants or refugees as well as the complexities of settling into a new place where it can be difficult to reconcile these past experiences with the expectations of a new community.

Claire Rosslyn Wilson is a regular writer for Art Radar and Culture360 and has co-written a book on Freelancing in the Creative Industries (Oxford University Press). Her poems published in various journals and she writes poems about the objects around us at You can follow her on Twitter @clairerosslyn.

Image: Christine and Hagen Graf/Flickr