The Singing Tree

poems about Corby

By Kevin Fegan


(for Adela and Carmen Ramirez)



People sometime say to me,

“Adela, why so miserable face?”

They do not know what these eyes have seen,

they do not feel displaced.


It is 22nd May 1960,

I am 8 years old in my home country;

we are happy Chilean family

living in countryside

near river, by the coast.

My parents run restaurant

and bakery in town.

The house begins to shake,

my dad turns colour of ghost

and orders all of us ourside;

we are falling down,

the road is rolling like warm dough;

the house heaves a final sigh

and crumbles to the ground.

Dad shouts: “Run! Everyone!

Run to the mountains!”

He knows tsunami will follow earthquake;

as we claw our way to the mountains,

dad says, “Don’t look down;” but we do:

our home, restaurant, bakery, town,

all gone, for good;

the whole valley is flooded;

it is most powerful ‘quake recorded

in history of the world.

When I see images on tv

of Japan, I feel for those people,

I know their pain.

In the mountains we mix

with native Indians who know

how to accept nature without complaining.

We have nowhere to go,

so we move to capital, Santiago.


11th September 1973:

my son is hiding under bed

from the soldiers; there is gun

in my back, gun to my head;

friends and family murdered in front of me.

We live in La Reina,

a city commune in Santiago.

There has been military coup

against President Allende,

with blessing of Richard Nixon

and Henry Kissinger of U.S.A.

The soldiers are searching for my husband

who is on way to Argentina.

General Pinochet has rounded up

40,000 supporters of Allende

and herded them into National Stadium

to be tortured and slaughtered.

As a child I was “mascotta”

for the party; at meetings

I would be eyes on the street.

As young woman I believe in people

and politics of the Left Wing;

my husband designs buildings for Allende;

but I do not want to become lost,

one of the desaparecidos.


I am granted visa in Argentina

by the British Embassy:

after two long years we join my husband

in England where he has job in steelworks

as electrical engineer.

My son, Esteban, is 6 years old

when we come to Corby: it is snowing;

the people are very helpful,

concerned about our health;

but I trust nobody,

keep myself to myself.

We have more children: Anita-Maria

and Carmen; but even now

there are no Chilean families

in Corby: it is hard to belong

with no community of your own;

I am very lonely.

My husband struggles with drink

and I have so much inside my head

that will not go away.

We separate and now he is dead.

I despise alcohol, but I drink

bottle of wine the day Pinochet dies.


February 2010:

Anita is living in Chile;

she is with boyfriend and her son, Ben,

at seaside resort of Pelluhe.

She sends email to her sister:

“Having fantastic, restful time –

Mother Nature at its best.”

Saturday 27th February,

50 years on from 1960,

massive earthquake strikes Chile.

Pelluhe is flattened and washed away

within the hour by the power

of tsunami wave.

Esteban and Carmen try to contact them:

night before earthquake

Anita, Ben and boyfriend

caught bus home to Talca,

which is also destroyed.

We are distraught until Anita calls

to let us know they are safe,

not like thousands of others who

were not saved or have nowhere to go.


Esteban lives in U.S.A.,

but never forgets where he comes from

and wants to return to Chile;

Anita was born here

and wants to return to U.K.

We are like blind people

on pilgrimage to find identities.

Where is beginning of journey?

Where is end?

My other daughter, Carmen, lives here

with me; she is my best friend.




Some of the kids at Carmen’s school

didn’t know what to make of this cool

gypsy-looking beauty,

so they simply called her “paki”.

British-born but darker than her mother,

she was never bothered by being “other”

when it came to ticking boxes.

At age 15, she visited Chile

and was overwhelmed by fresh food

and the size of her extended family;

Chileans are empanadas and cazuelas,

English are Yorkshire puddings and Cornish pasties.

The Chilean in her likes to party,

she is romantic and passionate,

gesticulates her conversation -

if she feels it, you see it.

The English in her is still water running deep,

controlled emotions bubbling underneath,

worried what others might think.

By her own estimation

Carmen is 30% English/ 70% Chilean;

in other words, “second generation”.

Age 15, Carmen also discovered who she was

on the inside and came out

with a fierce independence and pride.

She met someone special at a Halloween party:

an older woman, with a teenage son,

half-Scottish half-Lithuanian;

just two women getting on with their lives

accepted by all sides of the families;

no earthquakes, no genocide.

Carmen knows about surviving,

her parents taught her well;

life is not easy but it is amazing.

as far as she can tell.

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This page was added by Kevin Fegan on 20/02/2012.

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