THE CITIZENS OF NOWHERE
‘…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.
PASTUSO IN RWANDA
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.
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