So, after slavery, colonialism, two world wars,
teddy-boys, skinheads, rivers of blood speech,
neo-nazis, thatcher, 3 kids, 5 grandkids, a cosy
council house, 20 floors up, a small pension,
now you want to send me home. Oh Woooow!
Even the sandwich van outside the station
selling jerked chicken sandwiches, yet you claim
not to know how they got here. Oh Wooowow!
I can buy beef patties at a literary festival in Yorkshire.
Truth is you were always planning my departure,
from the moment I walked down the gangplank,
freestyling “London is the Place for Me”.
I notice you wasn’t clapping…or smiling.
Can’t help thinking this has always been the plan.
In the long game, we’ve drawn the short jab.
We could hear it in the whispers, even as we
squared your bedsheets and delivered your
blue, veiny kids on the ward. As soon as the labour’s
done we could hear as we turned our backs:
Darkie! Sambo! You must think we’re dumb.
Are we dumb? From the slaveships to world wars,
to the underground and the hospitals, it’s always
been about the labour, never about the living.
Cheap muscles and blood to build you an empire.
It has never been about our living, never about
our tambourine church, our Christmas rum cake,
the audio-science of soundsystems. Our relationship
has never been more than strained at best.
Every second street name is a shout out to my captors.
This one going out to the Wilberforces, who whipped
a little less than the Beckfords. These are the streets
we walk through. We need some black plaques
on these buildings, godammit. Here lived
Florence Scarborough between 1960 and 2005
and, boy, she took nooooooooo shit. My gran said,
Let Enoch Powell come to Brixton, talking
that river of blood shit to her face, and he’d be
tasting a river of salty blood in his mouth.
To this day her grandchildren still bring
that rage to the page. So the unspoken question
remains: What to do with these darkies
after we’ve wrung them out…AHA. Warm up
them planes, boys, we are returning a cargo called
Windrush generation. What do you mean my dad
can’t return from his holiday? The burden of proof
is on us? Again? Think legality and lineage
at the very least. Get the grand kids into a jail or two,
or better yet kill them… in the street, on cctv,
and cellphones, it doesn’t matter. It’s fine, they think.
These people are an easy target. They do not organise,
centralise or come as one; they’ve got no major
media outlets, or effective representation in government.
We can send them back for months without
this thing breaking. I smell subterfuge and sleight of hand.
These people keep meticulous records of everything,
even their genocidal imperatives. Hell, I could go
online right now and check on the height, weight,
condition and price of the slaves you brought
and sold in your family, yet our records (poof!)
disappeared. How can you be banished
from your own home? Congratulations.
You fooled us. Render your work, not your lives.
This seems like the newest answer to an old question.
Cheap muscle and blood to build you an Empire –
that we can’t stay in. Gran’s gone missing from
Saturday morning. Brixton Market? No one is frowning at
the quality of the yams, or asking how the snapper’s
eye so cloudy. There’ll be no Saturday soup tonight.
from A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press, 2019), © Roger Robinson 2019, used by permission of the author and the publisher.