‘Why do you love us?’ the young girl said
‘The country people don’t love us’
She was a Traveller child
‘The others think they’re above us’
And why do we have internment camps
Processing our fears
Displaced persons locked away
Unseen their silent tears
Because we fear what we don’t know
Our ignorance is not bliss
Prison keeps people from our eyes
Forget that they exist
My father went into a ‘Paki’ shop
That’s what they called them then
‘Allah alaikum’ his greeting was
He smiled to welcome them
Words he had learned in India
British Empire time
Served him well to welcome folk
To his home patch and clime
Wherever you go the good Lord says
Let you first words be
Peace to this house every time
Then you wait and see
And if rebuttal comes your way
Gently take your leave
Shake the dust as a sign to them
But do not make them grieve
You must be tested in the fire
How genuine are you?
Can you sustain your peacefulness?
Or is it up with you?
5 February 2022
+ A Mercy Sister in Mayo remembers a Traveller child in awe that love was shown to her and not spite.
Letters in the Guardian tell stories about internment of foreigners during the war and how unfairly many were treated. Fearful times often cause us to forget basic decencies. Kindness becomes a luxury we cannot afford.
When Asian folk appeared in Tyldesley my father put his few words of Urdu to good use in a shop one day.