Immigrant Land

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

centuries of
slavery and land exhaustion
wasn’t that enough
and the only way to survive
was to leave paradise behind
bringing vaguely
European-sounding names
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
when immigrants
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
Caribbean grandparents
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?

immigrant land
is the Windrush
the NHS
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

Photo Credit: Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash

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

Photo Credit: Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

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

and really,

who can argue with that?

New Country, Who Dis?

Inspired by ‘What’d I Miss?’ from Hamilton, I wrote this poem on the thoughts and feelings I had coming back to Britain in July 2016 after a month’s holiday in India.


How did the former-leader of colonisation
take a vote to declare its own independence?
Immigrant-reliant society
no longer a leading authority
made up of people from former-colonies
government in contempt of democracy
Britain’s all washed up, ready to forfeit
everyone knows we’re walking in corsets

there was once a time
when this country set the precedent,
the Brexit experiment
stupid as American decadence
reels of no deals in a one-party system

listen
I went to India
and came back to this,
switched the TV on
to see May’s new cabinet
one-way or no way like IKEA
no idea which way is up
whilst rolling through wheat fields
what Farage envisaged
as Blyton’s Britain
cucumber sandwiches and green fields

Photographer: Jamie Casap on Unsplash

but what awaits The People in this new place?
Farage, Boris and Mogg strawberry-lace faced
and The People respond with what the hell is going on?
we are ready to war for England’s soul
parliament and public in khaki enrolled
government plan is nothing more than authoritarian control

Spent four weeks in India, arrived to Heathrow’s political abyss
and the revelation of closet racists on my news feed
along with UKIP politics, ‘Britain First’ and ‘English Defence League’

What the hell did I miss?
“You’ve been gone a long time” (four weeks)

New country, who dis?

History Class

So I wrote this poem inspired by ‘Art Class’ by Rhiannon McGavin, an American poet. This poem also derives my poem Genocide and its inspirations.

Despite society being an abstract noun, I have characterised society as a man. So for the nature of this poem, society is a he.


Society thinks
you can’t swear in poetry. 

So unto Society I say,
“Raise your hands if you have heard of Auschwitz.”
Instantly, he raises his hands
like mustard gas rising out of a trench.

Okay, hands down.”
Now raise your hands if you have heard
of the Morant Bay Massacre.
Rolling eyes blended with curious stares
a shaking hand ascends
half-raised like a lone soldier
struggling to stand at Passchendaele.

“Are you sure about that?”

“No”

“That’s what I thought”

“Society – what’s truth?”

They won’t let you hear it at school
if that person says “fuck.”
Can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though Education’s
been fucking students for years.

You can’t teach a 16-year-old in school
how to swear, how to use language,
how to wear words like body armour

There’s children in London
who carry knives to the library in case they get jumped
and you want to censor language.

“Society – what is history class?”

Your books leave out the Maroons and the Arawaks
Call themselves ‘World History’ and omit
Cecil Rhodes and Zimbabwe, King Leopold,
blood diamond mines and the Congolese Genocide
Fifteen million dead Africans,
call themselves ‘Politics in the Modern World’
and fail to mention Enoch Powell or Apartheid.

Why Black children hide in lighter skin,
dark-skinned girls under the boots of colourism
those with natural hair thrown to sin bin.

Folks thinking Edward Snowden
was a politician educated in Oxbridge.
How can education not include
Julian Assange or Jimmy Carter?

Photographer: Neonbrand On Unsplash

Schools are built in shadows
filtered through
the grinding teeth of money,
designed under coins and corporations.

They’re sterilising children,
injecting classrooms, drilling
independent thought with silent poison
stifling creativity, making a killing.

Jack hung himself in his bathroom
because he wasn’t smart enough
to meets school standards.

Hannah started bleaching
her daughter’s skin
the day before she started school.

She carves curved lines into her
beautiful brown skin so
she can remember her ancestors.

“What’s history class?”

“This, right here, is history class.”

Stick It To The Man (After ‘Groan’ By Alex Levene)

I wrote this poem inspired by ‘Groan‘ by poet Alex Levene, which in itself is inspired by ‘Howl‘ by American poet Allen Ginsberg.

Alex Levene is a Bedford-based writer and poet who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with at SFP many times (a serious mega talent!).

I first heard ‘Groan’ at Soul Food Poetry Bedford in April this year and have since been writing a response piece to it.

So for six months I’ve been writing and editing this, detailing my own perceptions of creative writing and who my inspirations are.


I saw the greatest minds of my year group  destroyed by sadness – hysterical jaywalkers, burnt brazen, naked, lives laid bare

crawling their way through the social Middle Earths of Twitter and Instagram, looking for a million likes and retweets,

millennial media mongrels lusting for a human connection to the societies of open-air realities and sunlight, through text speak and Urban Dictionary

overdosing on hollow lies still high, sofa-sprawled students smoking in their custom-made sun loungers looking into their Mad Max-esque orange

haze screens, their incandescent tangerine shed-like space, killing each other for cash and capital in a scramble for power like it’s fucking Westeros.

Photographer: Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

Now begins my song of praise
bless me with your righteous gaze.
I pray you’ll concede that this world’s future
depends on the arts, creativity and poetry.

Poems weren’t always in my peripheral view
but what better way to talk to you
and read in front of all these faces
as poetry transcends colour, creed, sex and races.

I once wanted to be a police officer, a cricketer, you know?
Now I write poems, using rhythm, rhyme, meter and onomatopoeia
striking academia full of fear in their weekend boats
sailing full speed ahead from Lands’ End to John O’Groats.

But I’ll stand tall, like the walls
between poetry and spoken word.
They’re one and the same, haven’t you heard?

Should I compare you to a summer’s day?
The war cry – the poet that slips into words
like Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet,
the Mad Titan who takes centre stage and flaunts it.

And I write this poem for those who will listen,
who will take heed of my words and their composition,
who will comprehend the poet’s vision.
People hate to hear rhythm and rhyme,
as words can allude, confuse and hypnotise.
Conveyors of myths and magic, incantations
that summon beasts. Tales of Merlin and Mordrid,
the Druids, Arthur, Guinevere, their feasts and fights,
don’t let these poets on the open-mic tonight.

See, there are issues with poetry;
most switch off – it’s lyrical,
the pinnacle of most great songs is poetry.

Photographer: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Way back in the day,
you’d read up on your Greek and Latin
bashing out odes and elegies
on bits of parchment
written with quills and ink.

But poetry has always been
for the people by the people,
a synergy creating a soulful energy,
sometimes read over the kitchen sink.

And the soul of creativity
has always been inside of us, in the heart,
regardless if that’s
poetry, prose, theatre or dancing in the park;

the poet is more than writing poetry,
it’s a mentality, it’s your mind-set,
life choices, your actions and your voices.

If prose is the bellow poetry is the murmur
in the corner people-watching
taking down each detail –
collecting everyone’s emotions and clout,
bottling it up and then raising it to a shout.

A howl, a growl, a snarl,
raging against the societal machine,
lies unclean, torn seams of childhood innocence.

And I will never cease rhythm’s use,
it’s not might fault. Blame Roald Dahl,
Spike Milligan, and Dr Seuss… and
“Augustus Gloop Augustus Gloop
The great big greedy nincompoop
Augustus Gloop, so big and vile
so greedy, foul, and infantile.”

Okay, I took that, but wasn’t it
Picasso who said, “Good artists borrow,
great artists steal?” – I think,
and these writers moulded my youth.

Poetry catches, snatches, captures, enraptures,
not just the town crier on stage proclaiming his love –
not just hope in the form of a holy white dove
but it’s a state of mind, a passion… it’s a want,
a hunger, a message, sometimes
a polemic attack against systems, governments
and institutions that manipulate and fashion.

Photographer: Manasavita on Unsplash

For me, my Creative Writing degree was not a choice,
it was a chance for me to express myself and use my voice.

Every writer who has put pen to paper,
or finger to keyboard
was saving their sword for you to wield later.

I discuss race, class, politics and mental health,
children’s literature and capitalist wealth,
and the mysteries of my family tree,
stories of slavery and immigration
as I don’t know how I came to be me.

Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, or tried to,
like how Stalin banned poetry and the Nazis believed
poetry came from the hands of the Jews.

The weapon that kills the fascists is not the gun or the sword,
it’s the lyrics, the bold art of playing with words from a chessboard.

Protest and politics is where it begins
friends and experiences poeticised in the form of a hymn.

From reggae through to science,
The Isaacs (Newton and Gregory),
you can’t lock them up in the speech penitentiary.

Agard, Zephaniah, Sabrina Benaim, Margaret Atwood
AM Pressman, Neil Hilborn, Olivia Gatwood,
writers who change our perspectives for common good.

Byron, Shelley, Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Larkin
Sylvia Plath, Blake, Grace Nichols, writing mages
it’s the artists’ job to rattle society’s cages.

Sassoon, W.H. Auden and Wilfred Owen,
Alfred Lord Tennyson, the internet and Google search
David Olusoga, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Afua Hirsch.

Photographer: Kinga Cichewicz

Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Jill Scott
talking about their experiences on the streets
as we learn of The Harlem Renaissance, the 60s and the Beat.

Shakespeare, Derek Walcott, Steve Smith,
Wordsworth, the Bobs (Dylan and Marley),
Naomi Shibab Nye and Thomas Hardy.

I implore you all to read as much as you can,
write your spoken words and stick it to The Man!

Smile

I’ve become synonymous with historical poetry but that’s not all I write about; I do attack different subjects, including mental health.

That’s what this poem is about. Mental health problems can sneak up on the best of us and this poem is a few thoughts on trauma.


People don’t give Black boys enough credit.

Even now at 22 I’m still studying and the last time I studied a positive Black person was when my schoolteacher told us about David Harewood as Othello.

That was ten years ago in 2008, a long time, long enough;

ten is the Capricorn Zodaic sign;

is highest score at a poetry slam;

ten years (plus two) is the difference between my brother and I;

is the difference between boy and man;

was when I first fell in love with the song ‘Son of Man’, in Tarzan.

Photographer: Dean Ward on Unsplash

I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower (love it). I was walking home one night and was thinking how White and hetero-normative young adult fiction is.

It might not seem like much, but it’s about seeing yourself reflected and not as someone else’s crutch.

I view reading as breathing and when I read I frown; when I’m in photos I find it hard to smile (on demand). I’m sad, and deep in thought.

I’m always down.

People tell me to smile.

Strangers telling strangers to smile.

Sweet old ladies that mean well saying:

“You’re too young to look this sad. Smile, sweetheart.”

Grandparents saying:

“Be happy. Just feel better.”

Weird, isn’t it? Telling someone you don’t know / those you do to look happy and feel better, treating depression like a headache.

Photographer: Taylor Grote on Unsplash

A smile takes one muscle more than punching someone in the face, that last one is what those who look like me are synonymous with.

Violence. Shedding more blood than tears.

Tantrums over thoughts –

ideas left hanging from a noose, swaying in the wind at the top of Empire State, contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate.

Knives through veins and vital organs, trying to take on something you know is bigger than you could ever vanquish.

Something that has killed plenty before and will kill plenty after; because if there is no attempt you lose the at least you tried speech.

Don’t tell people with depression to smile, because they might still be trying to scrub the trauma, a confession more holy than sin.

Scrubbed with boiling water – tap water, bottled water, holy water, it all flows under the bridge. A boat sailing to the slaughter.

Photographer: Aaron Blanco Tejedoro on Unsplash

Don’t tell Black boys to smile. Compliment, maybe – don’t demand.

Allow the contrast to funnel through, and if he does want to force a smirk, he will do it of his own volition, not at the behest of you –

with someone he can feel vulnerable with,

not some plastic grinned,

fish-eyed nice guy (or girl)

who finds the frown as scope to blame the victim.

He might have a good reason to be sad;

could be overcoming grief;

could still be in shock after a recent event

or he simply needs a good reason to smile.

It is not your mouth and they’re not your lips.

Not yours to find solace in

when the windows crash and shatter from the storm outside.

When your cardiac muscle crashes around your moneybox

like seeds in dry soil refusing to grow without moisture or sunshine.

And if you really want a sad boy to smile,

a Black boy to smile,

a grieving man to force a grin,

to wither in sin despite the depression they’re in –

talk to him until  you’re hit by

the blunt force instrument of mental health,

until to them it smells like flowers and not a graveyard,

until they re-open historic wounds to find roses and not a corpse.

Photographer: Nikita Tikhomirov on Unsplash

I am not yours to tell to smile;

if you keep saying “smile”, no one will ever want to.

And if you get too close,

you might get bitten and the victim will smile red.