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‘…if you believe you’re a citizen of the world,

you’re a citizen of nowhere.’

PM Theresa May at Conservative Party Conference, 2016

Image courtesy of Virvoreanu Laurentiu

Stealthily the night crept in

like a black padding cat

all wrapped up in itself.

Ignoring the fading of the light

the blackbird singing said

the force of life must win through.

And I thought of the citizens of nowhere

who continue singing their songs of hope,

keeping the flame inside alive.

The vans that read Go Home

could not have applied to them

for they are the citizens of nowhere.

Even though they have lived here for

fifty years or more, their status is

as the people without the papers.

Image courtesy of Charly Gutmann, Pixabay

Their ancestors were once transported

across the wild Atlantic waves

to work for nothing as enslaved chattel.

Now their descendants who came

to work in our public services

are the sudden citizens of nowhere.

Like Joseph K they stand accused

of being simply who they are –

a mere time-served expendability.

Yet the blackbird has no papers

and needs no permission to sing

for he is native wherever he flies.


Image courtesy of Andrew Martin, Pixabay

First they came for my dear friend, Mr Samuel Gruber,

who came originally from Hungary, I think.

Then they came for me early one Friday morning.

They burst into my attic bedroom as I slept

and shouted, ‘Get your filthy foreign fur out of this bed.’

I was terribly shocked and embarrassed for my hosts.

The children, Judy and Jonathan, were screaming and Mr

and Mrs Brown protested rather profusely, as I recall.

No longer welcome, I was whisked out of 32 Windsor Gardens

without even being able to say all my goodbyes

and without, more importantly, any marmalade sandwiches

for the long journey to Kigali airport. There was to be no

legal appeal on my behalf owing to the fact that my

anthropomorphised identity was not considered to be legal.

I simply could not understand the complexities of it all and

found it rather sad for the country I once considered my home.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

My biographer, that nice Mr Michael Bond, had once witnessed

the Kindertransport refugees on their arrival in London

with labels round their necks, and so he simply transferred

this to me. It was my lovely Aunt Lucy who had enabled me

to stowaway and she placed a message around my neck

which read, ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’

I did have a wonderful time in Notting Hill, looking back,

and I do miss the Brown family and think of them with fondness.

Cleverly, the authorities here in Kigali have requested that

my statue in Paddington Station, along with the other one

in Leicester Square, be sent over here. It certainly seems that

I am marketable everywhere I go. They have built me a nice hut

in the Volcanoes National Park and my new neighbours,

the gorillas, are extremely pleasant and I understand their

language perfectly well. It is similar to the language I spoke

in darkest Peru. In these beautiful mountains I am called Pastuso.

This was my actual name at birth. The Bonds and the Browns,

terribly nice people as they were, preferred the name Paddington

since foreign sounding names were just too difficult, it seemed.

And it also seems, looking back, how it was their so called Brexit

that tapped into the fear of the foreign and created the madness

engulfing the place. With their economy now belly-flopping, it seems

they need a constant stream of diversionary scapegoats. It is all such

a terrible shame but it’s now time for a jar of marvellous marmalade.

Jim Aitken is a poet and dramatist living and working in Edinburgh. He is a tutor in Scottish Cultural Studies with Adult Education and he organises literary walks around the city.

He has edited two anthologies for Culture Matters: Ghosts of the Early Morning Shift (pubd. Sept. 2021) and A Kist of Thistles (pubd. 2020.)

His most recent poetry collection is Declarations of Love, published by Culture Matters in 2022.

Jim Aitken’s poems protest against the world’s injustice and unfairness, but they are underpinned by something quieter and perhaps mightier than rage, and that is compassion.’—James Robertson


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