Sheltered / Seeking Shelter

We stood on the deck of our cruise ship, warm and comfortable, having just eaten our fill for breakfast in a beautiful dining room. The night before, we’d had wine with dinner and our choice of four entrees. We were returning to the ship’s home port in Florida, to then return to our highrise condominium in Boston.

The Captain’s voice was clear and strong over the loudspeakers. “There is a small boat of refugees on our starboard side. We have alerted the Coast Guard and will hold our position until they arrive. We believe in safety at sea for all. This will not impede our itinerary. We will arrive at our home port as scheduled.“

A small boat bobbed in the ocean, the people barely distinguishable except to see they were crowded in what looked like a rubber raft. It looked so low in the water, as if it was barely staying afloat. When the Coast Guard arrived more than an hour after the announcement, our ship moved away quickly. We only saw the Coast Guard approach the refugees. We never knew what happened to them.

cherry tree blooms pink
robin sits in feathered nest
mole burrows in darkness

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today, Mish asks us to consider the word “shelter” in our haibun: two or three succinct paragraphs of prose that are nonfiction/autobiographical, followed by a classic haiku.

Photo is from November 2021, when we took a cruise in the Caribbean. It was sobering to see in reality, what we’d read about in newspapers and heard about in the news.

Her Name is Sharbat Gula

You saw me as a refugee.
My piercing eyes your prize.
I was, am more than that.
I walked miles over mountains.
Mountains of earth, violence
hatred and poverty.

You asked no permission.
You saw in my eyes . . . what?
Pain, loss, my future?
My future was with or without
your use of me.
Your lack of concern for me.

Your future, on the other hand
calloused or not,
your future was in my eyes.
And they appeared everywhere
while they were still here.
One click and you were gone.

I became your prize photograph.
I was your prey.

Mish hosts Tuesday Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. She asks us today to “look into my eyes”, giving us several ways to do that in her prompt for our poem.

My poem is written from the perspective of Sharbat Gula. Her photo was taken in 1984, by Steve McCurry and subsequently used as the cover for the June 1985 issue of National Geographic and the large book National Geographic: The Photographs published in 1994. This photo has been called “The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa.” The photo was published without her consent and the identity of the photo’s subject was not initially known. At the time, she was a child living in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

National Geographic later searched for her, not knowing her name. They found her and produced a documentary “Search for the Afghan Girl” which aired in March 2002. In her recognition, National Geographic created the Afghan Girls Fund, a charitable organization with the goal of educating Afghan girls and young women.  In 2008 the scope of its mission was extended to include boys and was renamed the Afghan Children’s Fund. After finding Sharbat Gula, National Geographic also covered the costs of medical treatment for her family and a pilgrimage to Mecca. Hers is an amazing story and can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl