My bones know a history
that wasn’t taught in my East London state secondary school.
Lately, it has been pulsing,
frantic in its desire for discovery. This history I unknowingly
locked away and lost the key to.
It waits for me to unpick it. Listen close, it says, hear the rubble of a man
who could have nearly been your grandfather.
Your voice is a site of contrition,
a stamp of ownership. Whenever you speak, you say
England took our land, then our children, countless children,
and would not give them back.
And their children talk with the tongue of a traitor,
a whole empire in their speech.
What do they know of car bombs? Enemy lines
where there should never have been a border?
I come back, a pilgrim for the land I could have been reared on.
Desperate for it to feed me what I need to make sense of myself.
There are things I think I know but cannot name,
more feelings, a shift in air density and heart rate
when somebody makes an off the cuff joke
about how the Irish don’t know how to stop drinking
but they know how to mourn, and I nod my head,
offer half a chuckle it pains me to provide.
There are bottles buried at the bottom of the garden.
I know who put them there. I’ll never tell.
Can you see the land in my teeth, the country in my name?
I think of it like a flag in a desert, hope the wind will take pity,
fly it like a kite back home.
What come you here with a voice not of your own?
The Irish blood in my freckled face rises to the top.
I blush for what I am not but was meant to be.
If only I wrote these poems down, printed them with my name
in bold, next to a photo of my freckled self,
taken at the height of summer.
Would you call me daughter and mean it?
I think you know I am yours.
I always apologise when somebody else bumps into me on the street.