The Asylum Poems

By Lisa Jacobson
Asylum poems by Lisa Jacobson on Right Now

Like all the others

On the island that does not look like Christmas,
the orange Ali eats does not taste like the sun.

The blanket he’s given does not make him warm.
The keys hanging at the gut-level of guards

do not sound like the jingling of bells and parcels
are not presents but toothpaste and soap.

And the baby is hungry or crying or just fallen
asleep or just woken up. But Ali is big,

so be a man for your mother, his father said
but now it is the seventy-sixth day

and his father has sewn his lips shut like all the others
and refuses the oranges the guards hand out.

And the flies are fleshy and black. And at dusk
the blood-sun puts across the sea.

 

Always

So much water with no land in it.
Terror doesn’t vanish

with the coastline.
Always an infant-shaped hole

and a son trailing rope
from the heart of his mother;

always a rope trailing over the deck
where the waves break the watery moon

into splinters. Always a rope
and the neck of things broken,

swinging from the date tree.
And always his mother

singing him to sleep
with the wet-eyed song of her grief.


These poems are from the collection The Asylum Poems, which depict the plight of those seeking asylum in Australia. You can buy the chapbook at Recent Works Press.

 

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