The following poem, “The Prayer Labyrinth,” is an excerpt from Ruth Padel’s book On Migration (Counterpoint Press, 2013). Please click here to read an interview with the author.
She went looking for her daughter. How many
visit Hades and live? Your only hope
is the long labyrinth of Visa Application
interviews with a volunteer from a charity
you’re not allowed to meet.
You’ve been caught: by a knock on the door
at dawn, hiding in a truck of toilet tissue
or just getting stuck in a turn-stile.
You’re on Dead Island: the Detention Centre.
The Russian refugees who leaped from the fifteenth floor
of a Glasgow tower block to the Red Road
Springburn – Serge, Tatiana and their son,
who when the Immigration officers
were at the door, tied themselves together
before they jumped – knew what was coming.
Anyway you’re here. Evidence of cigarette
burns all over your body has been dismissed
by the latest technology. You’re dragged
from your room, denied medication
or a voice. You can’t see your children,
they’re behind bars somewhere else.
You go on hunger strike. You’re locked
in a corridor three days without water
then handcuffed through the biopsy
on your right breast. You’ve no choice
but to pray; and to walk the never-ending path
of meditation on not yet. Your nightmare
was home-grown; you’re seeking sanctuary.
They say you don’t belong. They give you
a broken finger, a punctured lung.