Big shoes

The staff at We Write Poems came up with a glorious prompt: Civil Rights. I remembered what I saw at the Airport in Helsinki just over a fortnight ago. Well, of course, I remember the same thing happening to me just over fifteen years ago, at the Airport in Amsterdam. Utter humiliation is the expression coming to my mind. Enjoy the poem:

Who will wear those big shoes?

We are all lined up

In front of the check-in

So early one morning

All freezing and dumb

Hand luggage is packed,

So neatly and

All bags are arranged in decorum,


Almost there

Just a family before me

Just a step from the free zone

With heating, coffee and soft seats.

I see a mother transfer diapers

from suitcase

on the verge of breaking open

to a bunch they surely

call “hand luggage”;

baby’s milk dripping from a bottle on the floor,

little boy clinging to dad

Dad running fingers through

thinning coal-black hair

speaking curtly in a

language I do not recognize

No doubt urging mommy

to hurry

Next at check-in desk,

They are ready –

All piles piled in order

So to speak, acceptable

Until the officer spots

their passports.

Half an hour later

everybody is still there

except for the check-in officer

who comes and goes away,

“To make some checks,” she says,

“Because there might be problems

With your visas.”

She’s eyeing them from top to toe.

And asking them if they’d come back

And when, and how

And why.

Oh, most important, why?

The father speaks but little English

The mother is so dumb and numb

The boy spills from his bottle

Then sits over it

And she pretends she

Doesn’t notice

That lump in her throat is

the one of despair

and humiliation

she’s not wanted there,

she’s a wrong nation.

And no one needs English to guess

that a passport defines you as human

or else.


© 2012 Mariya Koleva

Author: soul mary

Writer, poet and reader

4 thoughts on “Big shoes”

  1. Great, thought provoking, poem!

    An experience so unlike the one I recently had with TSA at LAX when I moved to Houston. Will share on my blog soon.

    EU winning Nobel was a sick joke in my opinion.

  2. A striking poem. And you lived it. There’s injustice everywhere, isn’t there? And so often we turn our backs to it. Well done, Mariya!

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