I wrote this poem after ‘The Real Refugee Crisis’ by one of the best poets in Amsterdam, Kevin Groen – who I’ve seen perform a bunch of times.
This poem’s all about my country, Britain, and how the recent “Immigrant Problem” is a walking contradiction when you look at its history. Nonsense.
is the Windrush
men, women and children
‘born from a sugarcane piece’
from colonies under
the whipping whip hand
of Enoch, Winston and Victoria
slavery and land exhaustion
wasn’t that enough
and the only way to survive
was to leave paradise behind
to foreign shores
up against uncertainty
thought British identities
aflame in Brixton and Handsworth
left home to find home
to build a society in monochrome
you say immigrant
that just means native anywhere else
but reverse the roles,
“Brits” getting fat in the midst of Spain
they’re just called expats
same thing really
but newspeak smoulders retina
are black rather than white
seeing seas of rejections
like oceans’ belly didn’t profit in times
of slave mutiny and insurrection
the Windrush arrived at Tilbury
gambling their futures with Mother Empire
identities prickly like barbed wire
used and abused labour
corrupted civil rights no war but the class war people say No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs
bricks through windows
banana skins on the front porch
nigger, coon, monkey chants, wog
now they’re bored of our complaints
their children and now the grandchildren
my cousins, my brother and I
look it’s happening again
Brexit, UKIP, DUP
can’t you see how court jester MPs
treat citizens like it’s Ireland, Easter 1916?
like it’s the HUAC in 1955
like it’s Nazi Germany,
Gestapo and the Night of the Long Knives?
is the Windrush
the Irish coal miners
those “expats” in America and Canada
the Brit(ish) Royal Family,
as all our ancestors went from
place to place as slaves and traders
also “explorers”, I call them invaders
we occupied your nations and stole your land
ripped children from mothers’ arms
trickled out with our lies thinking nobody
would remember fake wars or genocide
Ragnar, Boudicca and Edward the Confessor
I could on and on about our unEnglish ancestors
the African Tudors John Blank and Catalina
we took in Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany.
we traded in gold with Ghana, held slaves at Elmina
people came from Australia and New Zealand
India, China, America and Botswana…
don’t listen to those politicians who
talk of English England
England meaning land of Angles
meaning land of Norsemen, Germans
so don’t listen to those sermons
from Eton MPs in their long coats
free movement goes way back (1774)
with Ignatius Sancho
the first man of African descent
in Britain, to exercise his right to vote
and now those who came in the 1950s
the 1980s and the 2010s, called
illegal, rapists and criminals, condemned
we never care to think
what immigration is,
like Voldermort and those horcruxes
where you’re from and where you are
compromising bits of your soul,
it’s assimilation on a budget
at the brunt of backward racial theories
identity politics and mind control
there are no immigrants to be found
in Trump’s internment camps
nor on British streets
and it’s starting to feel Dickensian
pollution, poverty and street lamps
we’re all immigrants
we’re all people
we’re all citizens of the world
defying invisible borders
to be called nice more than nigger
to be called friend more than feared
that Windrush, that all of us together
wish to find home. To truly belong
So I wrote this poem inspired from a song I co-wrote nearly ten years ago (available on request) at Performing Room in Northampton.
Additionally, this is also inspired from the film The Great Dictator, written and directed by Charlie Chaplin and his speech in that film.
in 2016 my country split in two
48% voted stay the rest to leave the EU
in the wake of Brexit and Windrush
when we moan we’re told to hush hush
workers continue to suffer under the bourgeoisie
saving every coin so they can survive this austerity
men, women and children hurt and alone
many don’t have safe places they can call home
in halls of residence students sweat
whack to the knees crippled under government debt
you know these loan sharks in suits
playing judge, jury and hangman ready to drop the noose
these are images on a news reel
this history we’re living in now is sealed
it’ll be written with photo-shopped pictures
as you know that history’s written by the victors
you can see lies written into faces
discussion puts world leaders through their paces
they tell us what they want us to hear
but critiquing their actions fills their minds with fear
politicians thinking what they think is right
turning people against basic human rights
deporting British citizens and funding wars
street slabs acting as veterans’ floorboards
Black or White; Christian or Muslim; Gay or Straight
through othered visions the powers that be discriminate
destroying communities, minds and souls
they’re not yours not for corporations to own and control
Northampton, campus incorporated
degrees and education hyper-monetised…
Town Centre – litter-ridden, takeaways and charity shops
in addition to police on the beat and All Saints’ sighs
fake news, false media, forced slave labour
form systems that change narratives and model behaviour
it causes nothing but anger and distress
look at the world in protest and continuous civil unrest
like Goebbels and Lord Kitchener with propaganda
they use words and pictures to play on our anger
like Darth Vader they use the force to enslave us
using false media and stories to garner our trust
peace exists on Earth with the breathing and the living
not with us murdering those who are giving
don’t pollute the world with plastics and aerosols
pollute it with children who dare to be brave and be bold
humanity has been through so much pain
but those who’ve maimed must take responsibility
if they don’t things will never change
fix up and for once take some accountability
we should guide each other
like Indiana Jones in his quest to discover
one race – one people – one destiny
as we scout in pedigree and human history
Citizens of the World, have your say
we’re not pieces in games chess for them to play
party politics’s been casting us in sin
boxing us based on gender, beliefs, race and melanin
those of you preaching what you think is right
turning people against basic human rights
experiences have given me perspective
it’s made me who I am and taught me to live
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
This is a poem that I wrote in my head in November and only articulated it onto paper two weeks ago.
I came into contact with “Howl” years ago but I only recently engaged with it personally last January, not long after starting university.
Allen Ginsberg is one of the figures of The Beat Generation, along with Jack Kerouac (On The Road) and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest).
In short, “Howl” is a declaration of personal experiences with religion, sex, drugs and society’s absurdities. Part I is about individual cases.
Part II talks about the Moloch of society, which represses feelings and forces the victim to declare themselves mad if they do not suppress the said emotions.
Part III is a proclamation of sympathy with Carl Solomon (he’s in an asylum). In that last part, Ginserg is standing in solidarity with his imprisoned friend, extending his hand in friendship. This is an act of emotion in the poem, an idea that society seems to be subjugate.
In this act of rebellion, Ginsberg is embodying an anti-establishment attitude, thus sticking it to The Man, to put it bluntly.
“Watershed” was written as a stark contrast to “Ode to the Millennial Generation” and a modern rewrite of parts one and two of “Howl”. The title comes from that time after 9pm on television when all the darker / morally-ambiguous shows arrive on air.
I saw the greatest people of my youth destroyed by society – pure, naked, rancour; hauling themselves through the streets in the midsummer looking for something to do,
music-headed millennials listening to the sounds of Paul Weller and Bob Marley looking for a connection to their parents’ generation,
the people who plodded through poverty and sat up smoking seeing the supernatural silhouettes of spectres floating across canopies of towns and cities in an existential crisis.
These are the millennials who bared their knuckles to Snapchat and Twitter, hash-tagging their way through Wikileaks and Edward Snowden,
who passed through university swimming from the loan shark – dead eyes hallucinating like seeing giant chickens on the streets of Amsterdam,
those who cowered in cubicles making memes with nooses to hide their depression –
today’s kids who advertise their beards and long hair like Gandalf posing on the cover of Vogue.
They’re confused, like fish seeing land for the very first time, along with dreams, drugs and disillusionment. Walking nightmares, alcohol and one night stands that turn into functional relationships
on the blind avenues of a sporadic cloud and thunder in the landscapes of Bangkok and Melbourne, illuminating the rude awakening of real life.
Rookie soldiers of the twenty-ones to thirty-fours, responsibility and family life dawns while wine drunkenness catches their eye –
joyriding and jaywalking with no care, sun and moon and nature’s touch in the season of orange in Central Park, as poets and actors preach in the streets,
as feminists protest like Civil Rights activists marching from Selma to Montgomery under the threat of dog’s teeth and tear gas and police chants and horses and riot shields and batons and the legacy of Jim Crow,
and the millennials would yawp and whisper war stories about when they’d been arrested and on which march – the shocks of A & E, jail and combat – whole minds deteriorating in a seven-day layover with prison food, like vomit from concentrate,
those who disappeared into the cracks of Birmingham. Broad Street and New Street, leaving a trail of blood to the Rep Theatre,
watching poverty run riot by the riverside restaurants, as the homeless wander asking for change so they can live another day.
The millennials who jump in taxis to go two minutes down a road, those who lay hungry and broke in cafés talking about literature,
and those conversations disappeared into the tattooed trees on the table and into the local narratives and told tales of Northampton, Bedford and Cambridge,
and further still – into the West Country of Devon, Dorset and Somerset, places that investigate newcomers and make you forget city life and its liquid lunches,
inflicting scorch marks on the anticlimactic nature of capitalism in The West – places where police create more black stars than Hollywood,
millennials who broke down in jail cells and wailed like sirens when they just happened to be wearing a hoody in a white neighbourhood –
who were raped by those who preyed on low self-esteem, taken advantage of like the slaves who worked the plantations in Mississippi and Morant Bay.
But the millennials went on partying through Manchester and Liverpool – a juxtaposition to the legacy of slavery. Myriads of slaves at auctions who stood all day with bloody feet.
My generation who watch Black Mirror and Westworld as Theresa May perfects the art of crashing the NHS,
the young people who read romance novels in Costa whilst plugged into bad music, who sit depressed under their own storm cloud,
who had suicidal thoughts in school and were told to get over it – like depression and anxiety were no different to burning your hand on the grill.
The generation that murmur all night, scribbling incantations on how to be happy in blank verse, who watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower like it was the story of their lives,
who cut their wrists at breakfast, lunch and dinner and were forced to open nostalgia shops when they failed, who hanged themselves in their bedrooms and were forgotten.
The people who sang in Warsaw and retired to their beds… forever to tend their war wounds like it was 1st October 1939 all over again,
who were given daggers for their “ums” and spears for their “likes” and electroshock therapy to cure their anxiety of the tomorrow.
Camden Town and Oxford arguing on how to talk and how to live, tongues wagging from midday to midnight,
and those who dreamt up stories on the bus in long sentences, trapping the metaphors and similes with semicolons and subordinate clauses,
who boobie-trapped the verbs and nouns with dashes and commas in long sentences like Oscar Wilde.
And in the spirit of jazz in New Orleans, saxophone’s cry across the water with the tears of a thousand years of blissful adolescence, and are good to grow one thousand years more.
What foul creature carved out their souls and imagination?
Society – isolation – independent loneliness and inflation. Young people screaming in their homes. Children caressed by Hollywood divinities.
Poverty sleeping in the parks. Society! Society! The nightmare of society. Loveless in its mutilated Marxism, the brutal judger of broken people.
Society, the unimaginable jail. Society, the black dog walking through the graveyard. Society with its logos of judgement and stunned governments,
whose minds are machinery; whose blood is money; whose fingers are on the nuclear codes; whose torso is a bonfire of the youth; whose souls are stocks and shares.
Society where people sit alone, scared of their own faces. Society with its containment culture and cookie-cutter flats and invisible poverty lines and fake wars –
visions, symbols and miracles down the Thames. Dreams and aspirations gone with a whole truckload of toxic political correctness and fragile masculinity.
A storm. Epiphanies, politics and religions gone as the boat flips. Despair! Years of suicides and crazy crucifixions into a haze of holy yells.