Safe

I look at their faces and feel
ashamed that I use that word
safe
so casually.

How dare I stand up here and
teach its meaning to these people,
scarred by shrapnel, wheezing from
exhaust fumes, soaked through,
sitting on these plastic chairs
under the winking lights?

When a knock at your door can
mean death, when footsteps behind you
can end up crushing your skull,
when the law means nothing
out in the hills and blood demands
blood, then why would you ever
close your eyes? Every whispered
conversation between strangers could
be the upbeat to the end of you
so you jump from bus to bus
and take two hours to get home.

They are not safe even now.

You cannot make mistakes if you
cannot pronounce the word safe,
if you understand it, but it sounds
wrong, then your toddler cannot
touch a hot iron without social
services threatening to take him.

Your tears are not British so
they are just water.

Your explanations are too
guttural so they must be
lies.

They are now less safe than ever.

There is no number you can put
on the years that will make you a
native. You cannot be friends with
the sun and also the things that shrivel
in shadows, there are bags full of
safety, neatly shredded, being
recycled right now into bleached
toilet roll.

No number of years can truly
make them safe.

Let me never speak that word again
until I too know what it is like to be
chased from my home by slavering wolves
into a radioactive wasteland.

Let me never speak that word again
until we can all be truly safe.

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Not so secret racism

Sometimes certain political parties dare to darken my door with election leaflets. This is what I would say to them if I wasn’t afraid they’d come back later with more friends/big dogs/guns.

2011_04_09_G2826SassenheimNarcisTussenHyacinthen

I am still different

 

My form may conform
to the local norm
as I open the door to your leaflets
that spew forth your bile
against others and strangers,
that warn of the dangers
of letting us in.
I know that within
I’m what you think is so vile
so I smile.

You see,

With malicious glee
I do all those things you’d expect from me.

I take your jobs
and I live in your houses
I sit in your queue for your A&E
I use your library,
Take up space on your bus
I even vote for my local MP

I say “We”.

I watch your news

I stand in your queues
My car appears in your Google Street Views.

I’m using your water
I’m breathing your air
Flush my wee through your sewers
Your pipes are clogged with my hair

best of all:

I made children
bilingual half breeds
growing like weeds
spreading my seeds
my foreign ideas
shooting roots over years
until decades from now
you will look around
and find Britain has changed
is no longer the same
because I changed my name
and staked a claim
on your country, your land.

I’m sure you’ll understand
I’m sure you’ll forgive
You’ll live and let live
Because you don’t need to fight
someone like me, you’d say –
I am okay, I can stay:

I am white.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

You can hear me read this at Stephanie Arsoska’s Virtual Open Mic Night.