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A poem for the ‘Shunned’ – What You Need to be Warm by Neil Gaiman

Updated: Apr 5

While we ensconce ourselves in our comfortable havens, there are people out there who shiver under the night sky and depend on crumbs for sustenance. Neil Gaman has written a plaintive yet eye-opening poem on the state of refugees. If you have a heart, you shall read this…

A baked potato of a winter’s night to wrap your hands around or burn your mouth.

A blanket knitted by your mother’s cunning fingers. Or your grandmother’s.

A smile, a touch, trust, as you walk in from the snow

or return to it, the tips of your ears pricked pink and frozen.

The tink tink tink of iron radiators waking in an old house.

To surface from dreams in a bed, burrowed beneath blankets and comforters,

the change of state from cold to warm is all that matters, and you think

just one more minute snuggled here before you face the chill. Just one.

Places we slept as children: they warm us in the memory.

We travel to an inside from the outside. To the orange flames of the fireplace

or the wood burning in the stove. Breath-ice on the inside of windows,

to be scratched off with a fingernail, melted with a whole hand.

Frost on the ground that stays in the shadows, waiting for us.

Wear a scarf. Wear a coat. Wear a sweater. Wear socks. Wear thick gloves.

An infant as she sleeps between us. A tumble of dogs,

a kindle of cats and kittens. Come inside. You’re safe now.

A kettle boiling at the stove. Your family or friends are there. They smile.

Cocoa or chocolate, tea or coffee, soup or toddy, what you know you need.

A heat exchange, they give it to you, you take the mug

and start to thaw. While outside, for some of us, the journey began

as we walked away from our grandparents’ houses

away from the places we knew as children: changes of state and state and state,

to stumble across a stony desert, or to brave the deep waters,

while food and friends, home, a bed, even a blanket become just memories.

Sometimes it only takes a stranger, in a dark place,

to hold out a badly-knitted scarf, to offer a kind word, to say

we have the right to be here, to make us warm in the coldest season.

You have the right to be here.

‘Just Another Refugee’ knife painting By Salam Noah, Picture Credit: http://youthcirculations.com

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