1.1 The poem is set at the border of Iran. The
date is 1979, the year that Choman Hardi
returned, with her family, to their homeland
of Kurdistan, an area to the north of Iraq.
The poem is therefore partly
2 Form and Structure
2.1 The poem follows no
set poetic form. The
length of the lines
and stanzas varies.
There is a sense that
where the lines break it
follows no rules:
2.1.1 Many of the lines are
some kind of
punctuation at the
2.1.2 Some are
broken by sounds
(the 'd' of lines
2.1.3 Others flow naturally as
single phrases (e.g. lines
12-14 and 17-19).
2.1.4 This reflects the main theme of
the poem – national borders
follow no rules. They are
wherever a person or government
has decided to put them.
2.2 The story is organised around
four different perspectives: the
guards, the adult refugees and
the two children (the
five-year-old narrator and her
2.2.1 Stanza one – the border guard and
the families. Stanza two (lines 4 and
5) - the private reflection of the
child. Stanza three - the focus shifts
to the sister. Stanza four – the
mother. Stanza five – the families
and mothers crying. Stanza six –
another reflection from the child,
repeating the theme of stanza two
3.1 The poem does not use a lot of
'poetic' language but much of the
language has many connotations.
For example, the word "border"
could be a border between life and
death, youth and age, innocence and
experience. The date of the title fixes
this poem in a particular time and
3.2 There are very few adjectives and
these are mostly unexciting: "last"
and "different". The more colourful
adjectives ("clean", "beautiful" and
"kind") come from the child's
3.2.1 However, the contrast with the boring wait at the
check-point and the child's lack of excitement makes it seem
like the mother's promises are not real. This sense is
confirmed by the following line: "Dozens of families waited in
the rain". This uses the anticlimax of a dream being replaced
by reality to create a poetic effect.
3.3 Describing the "homeland" as
"Muddy" in line 26 shows the
contrast between the adult's
romantic vision of the place,
and the child's simple, clear
view of it.
4 Themes and ideas
4.1 The poem dramatises a core
experience of being a refugee: the
growing distance between the
adults' idea of home and the
4.2 The child is cold and distant not just because she
is tired. The lands they are coming from and
going to are meaningless to her. Where is home
4.3 The final line ("The same chain of mountains
encompassed all of us") is can be interpreted in
more than one way. The repeated 'ai' sounds
suggests weariness. So the observation could
almost be about how we are all chained to ideas
of 'home' that may not be 'real'. They may be
home but they cannot leave themselves, or their
problems, at the border.
5.1 Flag - This poem also explores the way ideas (of home
and nationhood) can be expressed in symbols. Like
Hardi, Agard had early experience of different cultures
and saw the way differences were created by
politicians. Where Hardi's poem is rooted in a real time
and place, however, Agard's is abstract – creating an
imaginary conversation to explore a world of ideas.