The Price of Flight

The issue of refugees is worldwide and one theme in my poetry is the contrast between our priveleged, mostly comfortable lives in the West and those of the poor and often exploited (for our benefit) in the Third World; and indeed often exploited and mistreated by their very own leaders, goverments and military. It is important that we are reminded of this and that we attempt to address the issue through our own lifestyles.

This poem has been published on the webzine, I am not a silent poet:

Please go to this site to view more poetry that addresses abuse of all kinds.


The price of flightrefugees on road


Kasim is nine years old.

The rebel soldiers cut his mother’s throat

in front of him.

They also kill his little sister

and his big brother

while he watches.

He flees his village.

When he is hungry

he asks people for food.

If they give him something, he eats. Otherwise

he stays hungry. He sleeps on the street.


    At the peace conference

    wine glasses shimmerrefugees

    on the starched white cloth;

    smoked salmon canapes

    nestle in neat circles.


Nosiba is sixteen.

She has four sisters and three brothers.

The soldiers kill the brothers

in front of her.

They rape her sisters

and they rape her.

They shoot her father for trying to stop them.

Those who escape have to pay a broker

to cross the border.

She doesn’t have enough money

so sells her body

to the broker.


    White limousines gleam

    and cruise through the capital’s streets,

    the generals’  uniforms creased

    to a precise command.


Zahia is fifteen.

The soldiers arrive in her village

line up and shoot all the young men.

The houses are set alight.

She does not know where her parents are

or if they are dead or alive.

She escapes from the village with two other girls.

They walk barefoot through thorn scrub

for three or four days without food.

She wants to go home.


    Beaches of gold and cities of culture

    beckon from brochures and magazines.

    The food is exotic. The flights are cheap.

    Select your paradise.


©  David Urwin 2017


Inspired by the photographs and stories of Iqbal Hossein in New Internationalist 502, May 2017.


Posted in homelessness, poetry, poverty, refugee crisis | Tagged , | 1 Comment

this imperfect life

Having written this poem a few months ago, I now find myself wondering if it gets anywhere near communicating what I was trying to say. Did I even know what I was trying to say? Sometimes an idea is floating around somewhere in the space of the head, but trying to properly grasp it and then elucidate it in words seems near impossible.

How do we or should we deal with the ‘mess’ that is life, especially if one does not believe in the simple notions that religious doctrines offer, for example that all ‘good’ people will go to ‘heaven’ and the ‘bad’ to ‘hell’, or that a god will ultimately intervene in the mess and absolute ‘good’ will reign. I tend towards the Taoist view that all is relative, that there cannot be good without bad, and vice versa. And yet – how are we to deal with, in our heads, this negative stuff that is all around us? Is it ever possible to simply ‘accept’ it?

The American poet, Carl Sandburg, said that ‘Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.’  Someone else said that ‘a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’ Hmmm.


What else would you do with this imperfect life

but push the spade deep

into the sacred earth

to lift the glorious fruit,

having laboured

through the spinning cycle of seasons,

having lowered

your head into the driven hail?


but be mindful of each moment

after moment after moment,

knowing the impossibility of it,

and pretend thathomeless-person-asleep-in-doorway-in-mayfair-london-england-uk-bfmak9

all shall be well,

as you pass the sleepless girl

on a cardboard sheet

in a Swansea doorway,

the beggar on the streets

of Mumbai, Paris, Buenos Aires,street beggar

hear of another hopeful refugee

drowning homeless in the Mediterranean Sea?


but in those rare moments of clarity

remain grateful for the buzzard’s slow circles

on the rising thermals,

the first appearance of the primrose in spring;

attempt to breathe out the insistent grief,

sweat through the work of days,

getting mind and hands dirty?


© David Urwin 2017

Posted in homelessness, modern society, poetry, poverty, religion, religious thought | 1 Comment

Advice of a May evening

This is really advice to myself, although if any reader wants to take it as advice for him/herself, then feel free. Once a poem is released into the public ‘arena’, then it belongs to any and every reader to draw from it what they will. I have written a few poems in the past that were pieces of advice to myself, the result of a ceaselessly reflective and self-critical mind.

The photos were taken in the field behind the cottage I live in. How lucky I am, and yet it is also the result of personal choices made over years.

Advice of a May evening


Walk out into the broad, open field

of a May evening, look up

and consciously see how

the sunset cirrus clouds echo

themselves and rhyme

their indefinable threads of grace

in the azure void;

stand under the shower of birdsong,

seek no word,

pursue no thought,

lay down your burden,

and inhale a deep breath

of nothing



and be whole

a while.



©  David Urwin 2017

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No particular reason

We live in a society and culture in which the ‘powers-that-be’ favour the haves, the go-getters, those who inherit wealth and privelege, profit-motivated big-business, and at the same time largely ignore the underclass of struggling, disadvantaged, ‘ordinary’ working (or non-working) people, because favouring the haves, the priveleged etc. inevitably creates this very underclass by means of hoarding wealth and privelege rather than sharing it out. All too often the struggle becomes too great for some people at the bottom of the heap. This is the kind of situation my poem seeks to highlight. A dark tale: be warned. ( If you have seen it, you might remember Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ here.)

It is the second ‘specular’ poem I have written and put up on this site; that is, where the second stanza is a mirror of the first. See also my poem, ‘Dresden, 1945.’


No particular reason


There was no particular reason                                                                     traffic on flyovers

that made him slice his wrists open.

It was just another routine day,

the scent of lilac from suburban gardens,

the taste of traffic fumes assaulting the lungs,

the woeful world in its cage of steel and glass.

The children were in school learning to fail,

his wife was in hospital, scrubbing the floors.

Another limp trudge to the Job Centre,

all of the windows screaming money and skyscraper

Every slick promise was on special offer.

Under the thundering concrete bridge

the ravenous river ferried him down,

as the shard of window glass opened a vein.


As the shard of window glass opened a vein,

the ravenous river ferried him down

under the thundering concrete bridge.

Every slick promise was on special offer,

all of the windows screaming money and sex.

Another limp trudge to the Job Centre.

His wife was in hospital, scrubbing the floors.

The children were in school learning to fail,

the woeful world in its cage of steel and glass,

the taste of traffic fumes assaulting the lungs,flyover and river

the scent of lilac from suburban gardens.

It was just another routine day

that made him slice his wrists open.

There was no particular reason.

©  dave urwin 2016

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Donkey jacket

This might be the only poem ever written about a donkey jacket! (If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.) Some of my readers outside the UK may not be familiar with this item of clothing, so I will explain: it is a coat very commonly worn by working men, mainly associated with dockers, miners, roadworkers, railworkers etc., and at one time a ‘fashion’ item worn by ‘skinheads’.

It was invented by George Key of Rugeley in Staffordshire for the navvies working on the Manchester Ship Canal, and given its name because it was used by men operating the ‘donkey engines’. It has an added association for me in that I grew up not far from this canal, and sometimes used to cycle down there. I’ve had mine for 35 years, and this poem is to celebrate the long life of this coat.




It’s a wrap up warm from the wind                                                         dsci0001

kind of a coat,

threadbare at the collar and cuffs

and one button ripped off but tough

kind of a coat.

To my kids it was a joke of a coat:

‘it’s made from the skin of a donkey,

that’s why it’s called a donkey jacket’

kind of a joke;

or ‘it was made by a blind black bloke from Stoke

who loved donkeys’ kind of a joke.

Shoulder patches of black PVC worn and cracked

after thirty-odd years of hard graft,

wind and rain.

Pockets of deep comfort,

capacious enough for kittens,

(I once took two gingers for a walk,

one peeping from each pocket,

safe and warm in wide-eyed wonder),

now full of bits of straw and baler twine,

a fence staple or two, a plant label,

dust and detritus of a working rural life.

Bought in the Army and Navy store,                                 dsci0002

stuff for the working class outdoor

kind of a man.

Did my dad ever wear it when

tinkering with tappets,

adjusting the carburettor

or checking for spark in distributor cap,

and other mysteries of the 1960s

combustion engine?

Memories are hazy and incomplete now,

but I like to think that he did.

It’s a comforting kind of a coat.

Winter nights I wear it, collar up,

walking the dog around the fields,

the crisp frost reflecting moonlight,

Cassiopeia and Orion looking down,

seeing out my days.



© David Urwin 2016

Posted in clothing, donkey jacket, poetry, rural life | 5 Comments

The wordless earth

The coast of Pembrokeshire must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I am priveleged to live so close to it. Unfortunately, I fail to get there very often, but managed a walk there recently. I am always promising myself that I will go more often. I promise myself again now. The poem is an attempt to deal with the idea of places on earth that just carry on being or growing, when we are not there, as in the Zen Buddhist notion that ‘the grass grows by itself’. We humans overestimate our importance on the planet- it would all carry on quite well enough without us, and indeed does so in the places from which we are absent (except for the damage we have done, and continue to do, on a global scale).


The wordless earth



No words                                                                 dsci0024


just grey sky


black rock


the vast ocean


sunlight meagre


on the horizon                                   dsci0020


a pair of choughs


stabbing at the cliff scree


blackthorn crouching low


where the winds scrape


and drag their harrow                dsci0017


the heather   the gorse


slowly growing


in our long  heedlessdsci0011






© David Urwin


Wooltack Point, Pembrokeshire, December 19th 2016.

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Not the Dabke

The following poem has just been published on the webzine, ‘I Am Not A Silent Poet’. Here is the link:

The war in Syria goes on and on. Nor should we forget the plight of Iraquis, Palestinians, Lebanese and many others in the Middle-East. Innocent civilians are pawns in the ‘game’ played by superpowers over oil, arms and religion, not to mention petty prejudice and hatred. Sad to say, but I think many men get a thrill from killing. Furthermore, human beings become entrenched in their belief systems and refuse to give way or compromise. Therefore, war goes on and on and on.

Not the Dabke                                                         palestinian-dabke


(the Dabke is a dance of Middle-Eastern origin, common in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia etc. It is performed at joyful occasions such as weddings.)

(To be read aloud to a jaunty rhythm, possibly with your foot tapping in time.)

Take your partners for the killing dance,                                                syrian-war-4

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

One step forward, two steps back,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The organisers watch from their houses on the hill,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

No one can stop it, they don’t have the will,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

Rape a young woman in front of her child,                                                   syrian-war-2

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Then execute them both, as the crowd goes wild,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

Change your partners, make new friends,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Make sure the supply of arms never ends,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The dance club’s bombed out, burned to the ground,                                 syrian-war-3

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

No cause for concern, another can be found,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The gamblers paid their money, they all want a winner,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

They’ll arrange the next dance over peace talks dinner,

it’s the killing dance, it’s the killing dance.

Kill, kill, kill, kill.

The dancers to their gods all pray                                           syrian-war-1

they’ll live to dance another day.

They hear their Holy Scriptures say

kill, kill, kill, kill.

© Dave Urwin 2016

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