Refugee Strength Canoe | Rose Menyon Heflin

Refugee Memories: A Tanka Sequence

I.
Precious memories
Drawn upon in times of need
Of those bygone days
Days of tight togetherness
Days of happiness and peace

II.
Days of calm beauty
Days of small, mundane pleasures
Days of great laughter
Days of friends and families -
All those days before the war

III.
Before the fighting
Before conscription happened
Before the bombs dropped
Before all the suffering
Before you fled for your life

IV.
When you had great dreams
When you had a full belly
When you had purpose
When you had a loving home
When you had a bright future

V.
Now all that is gone
As air raid sirens echo
And you find yourself
In a nebulous limbo
With just memories
Previously published in Poetry for Ukraine Anthology from THE POET.

Strength: An Ode to Refugees in Tanka

I.
Leaving home behind
Children and grandma in tow
You flee so quickly
Hoping to one day return
Knowing it may not happen

II.
You may not go back
Or it may not be the same
Still, you leave it all
Putting both past and present
So very far behind you

III.
Fleeing for your life
With just what you can carry
Leaving memories
Embarking on a journey
Its end completely foreign

IV.
The not knowing hurts
As does the thought of the life
That you leave behind
Yet, you find the strength to go
To push past all of the pain

V.
Forward you progress
Knowing suffering awaits
Knowing tears and grief
Knowing uncertainty lurks
Knowing that you must survive

VI.
Just trying your best
To live another dark day
You have no comfort
All you know is misery
And fear - so very much fear

VII.
But you still persist
Calling on the great power
Of your freedom sweet
Calling on your ancestors
Calling on internal strength

The Indian War Canoe: A Tanka Sequence

I.
Prepared for battle,
Both God and Mother Nature
Firmly at her bow,
The Indian War Canoe
Glides across the blue waters,

II.
Sailed by warriors,
All of whom will gladly die
On this fine fall day
As they shoot so skillfully
From their right front hip pockets.

III.
The dirt scrapes her hull -
A foul taste deep in her soul -
As they drag her hard.
Finally, she feels water
And is at her best once more.  

IV.  
She is old and wise,
This Indian War Canoe -
Very trustworthy.
As anger fills men’s black hearts,
Battlecries will rend the skies.

V.
Animal paintings
Adorn the canoe’s bark sides.
Grease-streaked faces focus.
Some will live to tell the tale
Of the bloodshed and the waves.

VI.
Others will perish,
Consumed by rage and water.
When the blood is spilled,
The Indian War Canoe
Will drift solemnly to shore.
Indian War Canoe
Emily Carr
Alert Bay, 1912 Oil on cardboard 65 x 955 cm
The Montreal Museum of Emily Carr
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Previously published in Issue 24 of Fireflies’ Light on September 7, 2021 

©2022 Rose Menyon Heflin
All rights reserved


Rose Menyon Heflin…

…won a Merit Award for her poetry from Arts for All Wisconsin in both 2021 and 2022, one of her poems was performed by a dance troupe, and she had a CNF piece featured in the Chazen Museum’s Companion Species exhibit. Her recent and forthcoming publications include Deep South Magazine (Ode to Summer Rain and Gone), Fireflies’ Light, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, Isotrope, Of Rust and Glass, Pamplemousse, Poemeleon, Red Weather, and San Antonio Review.



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