The Borrowed One

by Hélène Le Bohec

I will be of the race you want me to be;
I am borrowed,
Or lent?

I belong to the tribe of the forsaken ones.

I am a second-hand,
But my soul is vintage and rare…

Mark me if you must,
Acquire me if you dare!

I didn’t come with my “Made In …” label
And there is no hem tag.

Benevolent Cassiopeia has breathed me out,
My birth certificate split asunder,
The compass long lost.

Am I a mystery?
Not just to you,
But to me too.

I am a country no one can explain;
My Punic smile,
My Prussian nose,
My customised skin
Weirdly stitched
From the warps of Tunis’ blues
And wefts of Galen’s druids.

The cryptic mementos of my silent origins
Lay dormant
Like Delphic signatures in
My eyes,
Two mothering skies.

I can’t read my own colours,
I can’t hear through my own walls, so

Misplaced me,
Scattered Me,
Mosaic Me

Like a fluorescent deer belling in the moonlight
To her lost rangale.

©Hélène Le Bohec, 2023

This poem was longlisted as part of the Kinship: Poems Exploring Belonging project. Click here to find out more about the project, and other poems on the longlist here.


Concepts of belonging and community have constantly evolving definitions, and have been at the centre of fierce debate in recent years. The first twenty-three years of the new millennium have seen a rise in rhetoric aimed at those without the voice to argue back, and waves of toxic abuse have proliferated – and genocide. How relevant, then, to unite and raise our voices, to celebrate the rich tapestry of humanity, and to explore the labels we use to identify and express ourselves.

Kinship is a poetry anthology that seeks to provide a platform for marginalised voices, and to celebrate the great diversity and rich variation in the identities of people from around the world and from a huge cross-section of walks of life.

Click here for the anthology of shortlisted poems.