I wrote ” Air Too Pure For Slaves” in response to a poem called “Make a Desert” by Milton Keynes poet Mossman. You’ll find it below.
Make a desert and call it peace.
Wipe out the people and call it an empty land.
Making; by your empires, a bigger better world.
Explore with your weapons and your diseases.
Justifying actions through an empty God.
Making; by your empires, a richer poorer world.
Seeking a free, but not a fairer trade.
Shipping home the spoils from lands despoiled.
Oppressing the foes you made.
Then in your decline,
In your victorious inaction and withdrawal,
Let the others sort the mess of their own making.
Whilst you bank the cash of sugar, slaves, munitions and oil.
Put up the statues to the glorious heroes
And their guilty municipal munificence.
Pull up the drawbridges now against free movement of those others,
Fleeing your manmade deserts
Across cruel seas, hoping only for safe haven.
The lucky finding only the torment of camps and barbs,
Freedom and life the only losers.
I wrote “Air Too Pure For Slaves” inspired from Mossman’s poem. The title for mine comes from a chapter from a book called Black and British: A Forgotten History by British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga.
“Air Too Pure Slaves” is a poem in which I draw reference from Europe’s colonial past and show how the immigrants of the past helped make the continent into what it is today.
Immigration is not a new thing, it’s naive to pretend otherwise. Despite being a mass importation of illegal workers, The Transatlantic Slave Trade is a good example. People have been moving from place to place as long as people have been alive.
Build a country and exclude the labourers.
Chain the workers and bask in the profits.
Put them in a box, and send them to Sierra Leone.
Explore with your guns and man-made diseases,
justifying your actions through law and order,
making a nation of millionaires, a poorer richer land.
Mother seeking the help of unfair trade,
the grains of Demerara, the threads of Virginia –
Cotton is king; there’s mercy in a massacre.
In Berlin, you agree to raid the The Savage Lands,
or so you named them. We are a Coloured Empire,
children slaving with bloody hands.
Then in your decline,
when you couldn’t maintain your greed,
you left the natives in a swamp of your making.
Whilst you mined money –
the spoils of sugar, munitions and oil.
Erect the statues to colonial knaves,
like Winston and Victoria.
London streets, air too pure for slaves,
dwelling in your man-made deserts.
Now closing the door on their descendants –
leaving the vast expanse between
The Bulldog, the Dark Continent and Jim Crow.
The lucky find peace, abandoning
ship. Chains cackling with the
notion that death is better than bondage.