The Price of Flight by David Urwin

Kasim is nine years old.
The rebel soldiers cut his mother’s throat
in front of him.
They also kill his little sister
and his big brother
while he watches.
He flees his village.
When he is hungry
he asks people for food.
If they give him something, he eats. Otherwise
he stays hungry. He sleeps on the street.

At the peace conference
wine glasses shimmer
on the starched white cloth;
smoked salmon canapes
nestle in neat circles.

Nosiba is sixteen.
She has four sisters and three brothers.
The soldiers kill the brothers
in front of her.
They rape her sisters
and they rape her.
They shoot her father for trying to stop them.
Those who escape have to pay a broker
to cross the border.
She doesn’t have enough money
so sells her body
to the broker.

White limousines gleam
and cruise through the capital’s streets,
the generals’  uniforms creased
to a precise command.

Zahia is fifteen.
The soldiers arrive in her village
line up and shoot all the young men.
The houses are set alight.
She does not know where her parents are
or if they are dead or alive.
She escapes from the village with two other girls.
They walk barefoot through thorn scrub
for three or four days without food.
She wants to go home.

Beaches of gold and cities of culture
beckon from brochures and magazines.
The food is exotic. The flights are cheap.
Select your paradise.


Inspired by the photographs and stories of Iqbal Hossein in New Internationalist 502, May 2017.

Heart of Darkness by David Urwin

Something is rotten in the states of Europe

children fighting for survival     tear-gassed

at close range

into the eyes

                                          down the throat.

Something is rotten in the Jungle

of democracy

and civilisation

refugee children starving

sent away from terror       to suffer in horror

or be killed on the road           to a better life.

Something is rotten in the states of America

land of the free                    capital of liberty.

Is something rotten at the heart of humanity?



Woman’s Hour, Radio 4, August 3rd, 2016.


Dave Urwin is a Mancunian poet living in west Wales. Some of his poetry is on

In the name of this or that Father by David Urwin

In the name of the Father, the Son,

the Buddha and Allah

let us spray

the spittle of our hatred

on those who disbelieve our truth,

who refuse to follow our system;

and let us rain on them

a hail of bullets,

a desolation of bombs,

rape their women,

poison their fields

and breed deformed orphans

out of the dead land;

for ours is the assault rifle

and the kingdom,

the temporary power

and the illusory glory,

Paradise hereafter.

In the name of

 this or that Lord


this or that Holy Spirit.



Refugee by David Urwin

Though we conquered your continent;

though we stripped you and shackled you

and put a shovel in your hand;

though we told you to be grateful

for Bible and shovel;

though we told you to dig

for diamonds and gold

for copper and cocoa

for coffee and tea,

whilst we built our palaces out of sight;

though we subjugated other continents

and peopled them with our own refugees

from poverty or persecution,

from struggle or starvation,

and though we gave the natives

glass beads for their jewels;

though you now gather at the gates

of our palaces,

built from your dust and your sweat,

we have no need for more of your kind,

though you die

by the boatload

in the seas around our fortresses,

full of hopes and dreams;

though you die

under the wheels of our speeding commerce,

you who are nameless

from unpronounceable places,

we have no need for more of your kind,

so you shall not pass,

though we drive home from the supermarket

hugging our bottles of water,

and though our cats and dogs are

better fed than you,

you shall not pass,

you shall not pass.

David’s poetry blog:

Locked in the Coal Shed by David Urwin

Thank you for locking us in the coal shed, mam,

with a bit of bread and jam,

and hiding the key.

It was black and dusty,

though you gave us blankets

to keep out the cold

and make it comfortable, like.


When you locked us in the coal shed, mam,

my big sister was like a mammy too,

though we were both very scared

when it all went silent,

cos we never knew whether daddy had killed you.


You locked us in the coal shed,

with a finger to your lips,

every day of the week for so many years,

when daddy brought his fists home from the pub

and with the fire on his breath.


Thank you for keeping us in the dark, mam,

for that thin screen

between us and

every gut punch

rib crack

head smack

every brutal cock

between cheeks or thighs,

every hand-covered mouth smothered cry,

every bruised-faced lie,

the puffed-up eyes,

the choked-off sighs.


You locked us in the coal shed, mam,

though when I was nine,

and we moved away,

I only lived for Saturday,

the one day

they let me see him.

Don’t a young boy love it,

when his daddy takes him to work, like?


Mam, you couldn’t stop me

smoking dope at twelve,

hanging out on the hostile, fist-fucked street

with the other broken, bellicose boys.


You locked us in the coal shed, mam,

and my first taste of fun

was the hot-wired car gunned

off the estate,

the roar of heat

when it whooshed into flames,

as I chucked in the match,

and the door unlatched.

Then it was twoc after twoc,

a chase round the block,

then back in the dock,

the bastards.


Thank you for locking us in the coal shed, mam,

and though I was sent to remedial school,

then in and out of jail,

the heroin sucked off

the locked-in pain,

the locked-in anger,

took me out of my locked-up head.

But don’t a young man hate it

when his daddy is dead?


You locked us in the coal shed, mam;

it was the drugs stopped me

hearing that front door slam.

twoc: ‘taking without owner’s consent’, referring to car theft, usually for the purpose of ‘joy-riding’.