Safe as Houses
Don’t Think You Can Take the Migrants out of Me
Poem: Safe as Houses
Don’t think you can take the migrants out of me.
Every time I hear you say all the wrongs that
migrants supposedly do,
you are saying it to the migrants in me,
people who travelled thousands of miles
so they could work in sweat shops,
in boot and shoe factories, on market stalls,
people who ran from danger, threats, hate,
bullets and bombs.
Maybe I look as if you could take the migrants
out of me,
my hands are soft,
no one’s told me I’m not allowed to live here
though someone once told me I’m not
which made me wonder: if I’m not indigenous,
are my children indigenous?
Would their children be indigenous?
When does a person become indigenous?
How long does it take to be indigenous?
Maybe I look as if you can spin a story at me
about how threatening and dangerous
as if neither I nor you would ever dream
of upping sticks and living somewhere else
and being, you know,
as if neither I nor you might suddenly
find ourselves in a wrong place at a wrong time
carrying the wrong passport,
with a face that doesn’t fit,
and needing to get out, move, find a safe place
because, what is it, only mad, bad and sad people
do that sort of thing
and neither me or you are mad, bad or sad
don’t think you can take the migrants out of me;
the migrants in me tell me about
criss-crossing the Atlantic
they warn me,
they remind me of
long, long hours at work benches,
they remind me of relatives,
who at one moment, were as safe as houses,
and the next had no houses to be safe in
who fled armies, officials, police,
all acting legally on behalf of their governments,
relatives who found themselves
waiting to be snaffled, transported,
and disappeared forever,
and of course you don’t want anything
like that to happen to anyone
even though our country
acting in our name
has helped in the business of turning
millions out of their houses
people so desperate
as to climb into rubber dinghies
as if they were as safe as houses.