Desolation makes us peaceful
Makes us gentle with ourselves
For now, seeing the ragged
Pillage, their shoulder blades
Rounded and yellow as leaves
Some fall by the river, others
Remove their clothes and defecate
No infants except
A red-haired girl with inflamed skin
Villagers brought us hot broth and horsemeat
Then hid again under the earth
Three got down from the train without light
Except for some stolen candles
Which wasn’t enough
* * *
Poet Lore: Can you comment on “Light Work” in relation to our historical moment?
Frank Stewart: Forced human migration is among the greatest global crises of our time. Although men and women have been displaced in every era, we are conscious of individual suffering in greater detail than was ever possible before. “Light Work” is one of a series of poems that concern refugees and exiles; the pieces are set in a variety of locations and time periods, some recognizable as caused by specific wars, famines, or other traumas, and others not; some voices are those of real men and women.
Frank Stewart has published four books of poetry, most recently By All Means (El Leon Literary Arts). He edits Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing in Honolulu.