PEN International urges you to take action and learn more about No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani

Read an Excerpt from The Long Take by Robin Robertson

And there it was: the swell
and glitter of it like a standing wave —
the fabled, smoking ruin, the new towers rising

through the blue,
the ranked array of ivory and gold, the glint,

the glamour of buried light
as the world turned round it
very slowly
this autumn morning, all amazed.


And it stayed there, watching,
as they made toward it,
the truck-driver and the young man,

under pylons, wires, utility poles,
past warehouses, container parks,

deserted lots, between the long
oily marshes, landfill sites and swamps,

before slipping down
under the Hudson, and coming up
on the other side
to find a black wetness
of streets trashed and empty
and the city gone.


‘Try the docks. They can always use men.’




It was in me, burning like a coal-seam fire. The road.


Back there in Broad Cove, on the island, it was just working the mines or the boats. Taking on the habit of the old ones — the long stare out to sea — becoming like a thorn tree, twisted hard to the shape of the wind, its grain following the grain of the weather; cloth caps and tweed, ruddy, raw-boned faces, wet eyes, silences that lasted weeks; the women wringing red hands or dishcloths or the necks of chickens just to make more silence.




He walks. That is his name and nature.
Rows of buildings, all alike,
doors and windows, people going in, looking out;

inside — halls and stairs, halls and stairs,
and more doors, opening and closing.
Street after street of buildings, all the same.

People, all the same.


The clutter and color: everything
moving on the street, and across it, straight lines

and diagonals. Drug-stores, grocery stores,

snack joints, diners. Missions. Bars.
Blocks. Corners. Intersections.
A dropped crate or a child’s shout, or car

backfiring, and he’s in France again,
that taste in his mouth. Coins. Cordite. Blood.


So loud. And bright. No place to ease the eyes. To hide. So this is what happens between one night and the next: this is day. A never-ending rehearsal with a cast that changes all the time but never gets it right. Dropping things. Walking into each other. Tripping on the curb. Every door, every window, opening and closing, automobiles sliding past, the calls of the vendors, shrieks of children, horses and carts, trolley-cars and delivery trucks. People in a hurry, in every direction, wired to some kind of a grid. Maybe from up high you could see a plan for it all, like a model-train layout. Not down here though. Everything’s going too fast and there are too many people and cars and I’m holding on to this stop-sign because I’m frightened and I know I’m going to die.


A hard migraine of color-clash, daggering light,

and sun laid out everywhere in white flags.

Not a shadow in this world.


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