The Migrants in Me by Michael Rosen
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 ‘indigenous’, 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 could spin a story at me about how threatening and dangerous migrants are, as if neither I nor you would ever dream of upping sticks and living somewhere else and being, you know, a migrant, 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 enough? so, don’t think you can take the migrants out of me; the migrants in me tell me about criss-crossing Europe 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 sitting ducks 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 safe as houses.