Brian Johnstone

Writers for Calais Refugees

Rope Trick

Below his feet, the gaze of the earth
blurs over. All he sees is a whirlpool as the rotors
stir it up,

faces pricking the downdraft
with the whites of their eyes. And what little
they had saved,

stashed in a treetop or thatch. Nothing else,
till he spins
at the end of his line, bait

for their upraised arms, their hands that writhe
with pleading.
He needs them, he’ll say,

like a hole in the head:
the one left by these rotting crops, drowned roads,
livestock floating belly up.

The cord jerks one more assisted birth
out of the flood. And he
winds down. They’ll come in multiples from here.

Previously published in Dry Stone Work(Arc, 20140

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