A Poem by Durre Shahwar

Floating Countries

In the country of my birth, by the Arabian Sea, waves
of rain moved cities in a matter of days. The palm trees
that once swayed gently, thrashed violently, warning
its twenty million residents of the calamity to come.

In the aftermath, children pick their way across waist-high
muddied water, broken bedposts, car tyres and pages of
homework, each element trapped in the other’s way, out of
place and searching for sanctuary.

In the north, mountains overflow with the heat of the
Sun, melting glaciers and ice fields the weight of which
threaten to burst dams and erode the warm soil that once
birthed life.

In a village to the South, farmers toil in blistering heat, only
for a pink cloud of locusts to destroy the harvest, leaving
behind famine and poverty in a country responsible for less
than a percentage of greenhouse gas emissions.

I am a mouth-gaping tourist to their tragedy, apart from
them, and yet a part of them. I understand the language
of their pain but do not feel its magnitude, rattling
death statistics and frowning at screens, rattling
‘despair, catastrophe’, rattling
‘change, change, change’.

Written while Poet-in-Residence for ‘Nature and Us’, a joint collaborative project between
Literature Wales and Natural Resources Wales to encourage people to consider their
relationship to the climate and the natural environment.

Durre Shahwar is a writer and PhD Candidate in Creative Writing at Cardiff University. She is the editor of Gathering (forthcoming 2024), and a Future Wales Fellow. She is the co-founder of ‘Where I’m Coming From’ open mic collective. Her non-fiction work-in-progress was high commended in the Morley Prize 2022.