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Marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 26. Spirasi commissioned a poem written by the poet Sarah Clancy in collaboration with torture survivors.

Spirasi UN Day 2021


‘The traffic was torture this morning’

the work colleague remarks,’ How are you?’

you bite your own tongue and say ‘I’m fine thank you’

a great Irish custom – how to talk without meaning

you say nothing at all about actual torture

about escaping and constantly

looking over your shoulder

about direct provision, refugee status

and waiting, the endless days of waiting

you say nothing about the fear in your stomach

or ripping yourself up from your roots

and trying to replant yourself

in the soil of a new language and culture


‘How are you?’ your neighbour asks

and you say ‘fine I am fine’ like you’ve learned to

but you mean you’re overwhelmed

with a place where you can come as you are

and have strangers show love to you

and you never knew that such goodness existed

to think of it can bring tears

at inappropriate moments

but you didn’t come here for weeping-


and the bus driver who muttered

‘go back to Africa’ when you couldn’t find

the right change this morning

is one more ring in your tree of experience

and you don’t know from moment to moment

if things like this add insult to injury-

some days it’s no more than a fly on your skin

and you can flick it off without caring

but some days it’s poison.


‘How are you? How do you like it in Ireland?’

a new friend asks and you can’t even begin

to explain how it feels to be in a country

where even the civil servants who

make you peel your own skin in front of them

and then still don’t believe you,

are part of a place that has

thrown you a lifeline to the future.


You can hardly answer the simplest of questions

because there are too many layers inside

and yet you’re on the busy streets

and apparently thriving

you’re holding a job down, raising your children

you’re being helped out - by people

in the same type of situations as you are

with so much left behind them,

who seem to have little to give and yet

were the ones who kept your head above water

on the days you were sinking


and how together at the barbecue

you laugh about how people here take their shirts off

at the first sign of sunshine so weak

it wouldn’t melt ice and still though

something inside you has softened

there’s so much left and lost and suffered

and yet you have so much to offer

and the road ahead beckons,

How are you? your work colleague asks you

And you say, the M50 was madness

this morning, and I'm fine,

thank you, as if it's that simple

as if all this was easy.