The Migrants in Me by Michael Rosen

Nov 03, 09:15 PM

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.

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