A Letter From Lesbos
by John Gohorry
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.
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.