My dad was a remarkable man who lived below the radar,
Keen not to court attention lest people thought him bizarre,
Judging, as is folks’s wont, his countenance and not his grace:
The colour of his skin, not the man behind the face.
He told us stories when we asked about the life he’d led
And he would weave us wonder from the muddle in his head:
Traditional tales not held in books but passed by word of mouth
Transmitting mindful messages about a need for truth,
A fact I later understood derived from brutal treatment,
A lesson I have not endured, the consequence of pigment.
A separation of mankind with unimaginable consequence,
Presumed superiority where stands a lack of common sense.
His struggles and exclusion I cannot ever countermand
For I was dealt different lot and never felt the harm
Discharged upon my father -and my brother in succession-
So much that still remains unsaid about discrimination.
My father sailed from India in 1949
As eldest son and emissary, instructed to find
A refuge for all his family, a place of hope and sanctuary.
Thereafter, details fail me- for he would not regale me
With episodes revealing the trauma of this journey.
When we were small, he took us to Saint Martin in the Fields,¹
The crypt below, a soup kitchen which silently concealed
Unkempt men with crazy beards and coats tied up with string,
Many queuing for their supper, filthy, rocking, mumbling.
I later came to understand their frightening demeanour:
A real consequence of war waswhat I had seen there.
‘I came here, too,’ he told us, as if we both should know
That life is not straightforward, there is much behind the show.
That the challenges of fate should render love, reduce the hate-
Wherever there is difference, attack is not the best defence.
To Love One Another was the lesson that he lived.
For all the harm that he endured
He taught us to forgive.
* Especially remembering my dad, who died in 1999 after a long and painful battle with dementia