. A Letter From Lesbos | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

A Letter From Lesbos

Sat 30th Jan 2016







When you left us for England

we waved you goodbye

from the harbour at Mytilene

and returned to our lovers

in the aniseed beds of Eresos.


Inclusive, permissive,

we embodied your teaching

in our welcoming arms;

our shames were intolerance,

pride, whatever withheld love.


We got on with our lives,

played music, wrote verses,

sang hymns to the power of love

in the waterside restaurants,

all the heart’s thoroughfares.


Our life of pollen and lightning

might have lasted for ever

had not Homer’s Aegean

cast up neither Greeks nor Trojans

but Syrians, Kurds, Iraquis


- men, women, children, babies

in arms, migrants all, refugees

by the hundreds, the thousands

crammed in unseaworthy boats

from their war-torn cities, hungry,


exhausted, cold, wanting shelter,

somewhere to rebuild a life.

We remembered our vows and brought

round-the-clock medicine, blankets,

food, shoes and clothing to a shore


piled with punctured inflatables,

lifejackets, the tarpaulin shrouds

of the drowned, helped survivors

make their way to the mainland,

to England, perhaps, and safety.


In a thousand years, mistress,

may whoever remembers Lesbos

remember our acts of mercy

and Syrian songs in England

praise all our island is famed for.

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