A poem by Alison Jones


Alison Jones is a teacher and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three, and since venturing into motherhood has become increasingly concerned with the ways in which mass media and commercialism create a façade.  Her work often seeks to explore the layers of reality we are presented with, the preferred readings of the world, and those that don’t comply, thus exploring notions of power and understanding. Alison is interested in arts as expressions, not only of the personal, but of the collective, the political and the protest, believing that arts belong to everyone, and can allow voices that are otherwise ignored, to be heard.  


In my poem, A Cry for All the Mothers, I look at the taboo topic of seeing the humanity in the women that society often choses to make invisible; or to label in a way that makes them small and catches them in specifics, so that it is easy for the media to encourage us to hold their experiences at distance from us. For example, to label a woman as a refugee can be read in a loaded way and invite certain value judgements, whereas aiming to see the individuality in such women and consider their narratives is challenging. Perhaps these are dangerous women, who take the bravest steps of all, to leave all they know for a life that can only be better than a barrage of bombs and the raging machines of war. Perhaps it also takes a poet with a dangerous viewpoint to write about the things that challenge the mainstream media representations of these women too.

 

A Cry for the Mothers

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who had to leave a former life,

who took a chance, and now reside,

someplace far from home,

in France, or on a Greek island perhaps,

where, behind their eyes, after dark,

the stark reality of their home country,

plays out again and again, until numb

with horror, their brain closes down in part

and ice spreads through their hearts.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who packed a bag, possessions on their back,

and those who ran from cities under attack,

their hopes and homes in rubble,

who went to the trouble,

of grabbing one last toy,

for a small girl or boy,

who grips their hand,

far too young to understand.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who have walked for miles,

who’ve lost all smiles on their journey

to freedom, who hope and queue in lines,

who lash possessions together with rope,

as they wait to board uncertain vessels,

to carry them far away to better days.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who risk it all,

to float in dangerous squalls,

across a sea of uncertainty,

to discover what might be

a better life under different skies,

who feel they have to die or die trying.

 

This is cry for the mothers,

who lose their way, when families separate,

whose children fall into the briny depths,

whose men are arrested because they protested

about the  way things are done,

they were trying to protect

yet society rejects and now they are gone.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

living under canvas and winter skies,

in a mud bath surrounded by cries,

of the hungry and the sick, and the media eyes,

that despise and are all too quick

to judge and hold a grudge against them.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

telling stories at night, by firelight,

to salve the fright of children uprooted,

homes looted, who stand in threadbare handouts,

and disguarded shoes, no longer used by donors

who passed them on without a thought,

who ought to think more

about those beyond their own shores

and face difficult questions about possessions.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who have left everything behind,

to find refuge, who find not a dream,

but a stream of mud, and  the horror

they sought to escape is draped

in the fabric of a flimsy tent door,

and more and more of them come,

and there isn’t really enough to go round

and they are astounded when many don’t

understand, or offer a hand.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who volunteer and cross the sea,

who, much braver than me,

walk their talk and travel

to desolate places and find spaces

to create calm and offer an arm to lean on.

Those that have been turned away,

yet persist and resist authorities

who are telling them to go home,

who stay because the human story

is stronger than the rules,

and use their energy productively,

to make a difference , with no pretence

of support or hiding behind bureaucracy.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

who collect slings and things,

for others far away, who one day

will travel to help unravel their troubles,

who will walk away from what they have

towards those who have nothing,

because they must do something.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

the migrants and refugees,

the displaced, the ones nobody sees,

the desperate who concentrate on the next breath

the next step, who carry on

when everything is gone.

As they walk a path away from treachery,

may they be safe from modern slavery,

which conveniently wants an underclass

to clean baths, weed paths, pick litter,

stitch fabric, yet live in gutters.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

whose hands let go of another,

of someone dear, who live in fear,

of what will become of them,

those who walk a dangerous path

and live in limbo, who don’t know

where life will take them next,

who text on a borrowed phone,

but get no reply, who cry

to the stars in the sky, “are we still

under the same constellations?”

separated by miles and isolation.

 

This a cry for all the mothers,

living through things much worse

than we can imagine, who

seek to refashion lives

whose hopes reside in a tide of change.

Isn’t it strange that a government chooses

not to see them? An inconvenient reminder

of things gone wrong, of things we might have done.

 

This is a cry for the mothers,

I see them …. and all the others.

 

 

Featured image: Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California – 1936, gelatin silver print. Courtesy George Eastman Museum.