National Poetry Day: Aliens

Me and the alien.
Happy National Poetry Day!

Years ago, I wrote more poetry than anything else. Did readings in Edinburgh and various other places. Even had a couple of collections published. Then I started to write fiction and plays and found myself writing fewer and fewer poems.

I've very occasionally gone back to poetry, so over the years I've found myself with a collection of poems, some of which have hardly seen the light of day. But mostly, all the impulse that went into writing poems seems to have gone into fiction and plays, although I'm sure it informs a lot of what I write, which critics occasionally tell me is 'lyrical' whatever that means.

Anyway, here's a poem I wrote some years ago, but it seems peculiarly apt today when I feel that I no longer recognise England as the place that gave shelter to my dad at the end of the war. My grandad was from a Yorkshire Dales family - 18th century lead miners in Swaledale - and had probably come over with the Vikings. My nana was Leeds Irish. Dad reckoned there was some Hungarian in the family tree as well. So, I'm a citizen of Europe, if not the world.


ALIENS

I am small in springtime
on my father’s shoulders.
I can see everything even the
bald patches on the
heads of passing men,
a precarious and thrilling position.


My father’s hair is coal black and curly,
Polish hair as foreign as he is.
The word refugee is as familiar
to me as my own name.
I hold his ears for balance,
while he trots with me aloft.


My father’s papers proclaim him alien
which makes me half alien too.
Poland might as well be Pluto but
the iron curtain is real.
I see it sweeping across Europe
made of polished metal,
dividing kin from kin,
as unfathomable as space.


Small and safe on his shoulders
his hands steadying me,
I grip his ears and laugh.
We are what we will always be
to one another:
complicit and loving
alien invaders of
a mystifying new world.

Comments