We stopped, as guest supplicants at a hallowed place. The riders dismounted from their thin, bloodied horses. In the midst of the circle, as though the centerpiece of a ritual, was the skull of an ox.
The ceremony, of which our presence was integral, held the air of something sacred. Silently and reverently, the men approached the altar and placed coins and food in the eye sockets of the skull. Pablo joined them in this sacrifice intended to keep stray travelers safe. Refugees of all kinds would find bread, hope and strength to go on, wherever they were going.

I was moved to write a small piece of poetry on 10th April, 2013 after hearing of the exhumation of Pablo Naruda’s remains for the purpose of testing for poisons. It was suspected that he was killed on Pinochet’s orders to prevent him fleeing the country and setting up opposition in exile:


Pinochet is ashen.
A poet is exhumed.

No rest in rhyme
even in the month of our craft
for this laureate
death may have been toxic
to the body politic.

Much as sensuous love poems
are wasted on a dictator.

Forty years etched in your bones
where it is written
the truth may be found
and the rumors, if nothing else,
laid to rest.

After re-reading his 1971 acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature [], I was moved to adapt a paragraph to reflect a 100-word drabble tribute to those writers who face persecution. Refugees and asylum seekers are a highly politicized topic, especially in Australia as the main parties square up for a federal election in September. The world-wide refugee situation should be mindful of giving voice to the stories these people may offer. Who is to say that a future Nobel Poet Laureate is not amongst them?


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