The poem was inspired by an incident the author witnessed at Hong Kong. It is about the free movement of people around the world.
Ernest travellers bleary eyed plagued by trollies
Stacked high with duty free buys from carnival stores
Children bored and sleepy demanding attention
As parents checked once again their passports.
Smart, well tailored, young women, strutted by
Confident and purposeful
Displaying with the deliberate swing of their hips
Their ease with themselves and lack of interest in others.
The muzak pumped false comfort.
Recalling tunes from another time and place
Away from this alien world
of glaring lights and air conditioning
With its fearful flying machines waiting in the night.
Suddenly in a quiet corner
Away from the moving footway of passing passengers
On the side where the planes waited with their umbilical corridor cords
A group of people gathered businesslike
As if they were farewelling a friend.
It was difficult see what was happening.
A woman strapped in a wheelchair was quietly moaning.
She was calling in a foreign tongue, maybe Arabic?
Around her men stood in their official jackets, one with a baby.
Like the Munch painting the woman screamed silently in the night.
None of the waiting passengers seem to notice.
The stapped woman was trying to reach the baby
Her scarfed face contorted with tears.
She's probably an illegal, I thought.
Being sent back to where she came from.
Processed by immigration like an unwanted package
A reject on the conveyor belt of life.
But why did she leave in the first place?
To escape the rule of her family?
The indignity of an arranged marriage?
Or maybe being stoned to save a proud man's pride?
The escort party moved forward.
The waiting passengers looked the other way.
But there were two of us who saw in each other's faces
The horror of a journey gone wrong.
The world of glamourous travel paraded by
Offering exotic places and easy access.
But here a mother and child were being flung into the night
And I did nothing about it.
It was Friday October 27th at Hong Kong International.
But it could have been any airport anywhere.
Protocol and processes, fear and misunderstandings
Had turned us all into numbers and neutered our compassion.