Poems of Place

Sorting Socks by the Sea

(Lesvos, Greece)

I remember that day sorting socks by the sea,
snow on the waves, numb fingers, sky grey.
HAMdillah ‘assaLAMeh across the Aegean Sea.

A sock reeking of vomit, of diesel, of pee.
You left it behind for a safe place to stay.
I remember that day sorting socks by the sea.

Your sock it was torn; it was worn; it was dirty.
From which war-torn country had you come from that day?
HAMdillah ‘assaLAMeh across the Aegean Sea.

Gun-carrying men packed you tight in a dinghy.
I saw thousands arriving by boat every day.
I remember that day sorting socks by the sea.

Risking your life across rough open sea,
I offered dry socks that cold winter day.
HAMdillah ‘assaLAMeh across the Aegean Sea.

I looked into your eyes as we met, you and me,
and gave you dry socks to wear on your way.
I remember that day sorting socks by the sea.
HAMdillah ‘assaLAMeh across the Aegean Sea.

(HAMdillah ‘assaLAMeh – Arabic phrase meaning
thank God for your safe arrival)