dreams of a chewing gum balloon

“We never listened to my mother and always insisted on swallowing the chewing gum thinking that it might, one day, become a balloon that would transfer us to God.”
Yousif M. Qasmiyeh


Yousif is a poet, Arabic translator and academic. He was born and raised in a refugee camp.

I was blessed to hear him speak last year at a University College London workshop on critical approaches to creativity and displacement. It was a memorable day. At several junctures, he read out his poems; their effect was both magical and heartbreaking.

I later discovered that Jenny Holzer, an artist whose work I love, used his poem ‘If this is my face, so be it’ in her large-scale light projection for a Danish festival. What I would have given to have seen it. 

The quote above made me cry. Revisiting it now, it’s a poignant reminder that, for the majority of us, lockdown in the UK still represents enormous freedom, and infinitely more opportunities for pleasure and relaxation when compared with ordinary, non-pandemic life in a refugee camp.

A consideration that merits a pause for thought.


Here is something to listen to whilst pausing for this and, indeed, anyone for whom this lockdown amounts to a living hell. 

Max Richter – On the Nature of Daylight