When we came to these shores
the job my father was promised
didn’t exist; the factories
had all closed down.
He was torn between homesickness
and his love for his family.
He’d left a dead father who
lost his lungs to Hitler’s camps.
There were already strangers here;
we were strangers too.
We were refugees, of a sort,
fleeing the cold heart of metal press
factories and car assembly lines,
working 14 hours a day ticking
off each hour on the clock
that held our heartbeats in each second
hand stroke. The English hated
their own; we were exiles into
a land of exiles. We didn’t belong;
none of us did. We left God behind,
thankfully; and we pretended
this life was a “better life for the
kids”. The suicide rate climbed.
And our child mortality stats.
But we clasped onto our ways,
as those in exile clasp to
their religion. We passed cemeteries
ignored those who bereaved their dead.
On the bus this morning I passed
a young gentleman, a collection
of battered suitcases, 3 kids, their
eyes like sun-spots. His wife
standing still, staring, wondering
if they’d finally seen the end
of the world. But I knew where
they’d come from, and where’d
they’d be going, having been one
of those kids, gripping onto
my father’s hand in the pouring rain
thinking of home as an empty room.