Image: Refugees in Budapest / Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons
According to his website, not much is known about Brian Bilston. I happened upon his work quite by chance, when one of his poems was tweeted into my timeline – and stayed with me all day. I read it absently, in my usual mode of social media processing, but quickly found my attention drawn and my mind sharpening. It was poignant, clever and timely, and you should absolutely read it.
It is simply titled, Refugees.
They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
It was fortunate that the twitter snapshot had shown me the end of the poem first, or I would likely have clicked away, enraged. Seemingly cruel, bigoted and anti-migrant at first glance, Refugees eventually delivers the ultimate twist.
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way
(now read from bottom to top)
Read in reverse, in a satisfying display of creative magic, the poem (quite literally) turns anti-refugee sentiment on its head, inverting the meanings of each statement and providing a kinder, alternative argument. The stark contrast seems to beg the question: which will you choose? Hatred, or love?
Read the full poem here.