Artistic webzine on migration, borders, human rights

That Foreigner Poem…

… or the truth about Paddington Bear. “See, we all like our foreigners ‘different’ / but only in such a way that we can understand.” A humorous, straight-to-the-point poem by spoken word artist Stephanie Dogfoot, recorded especially for Le monde n’est pas rond.

That Foreigner Poem

paddingtonbearPaddington Bear was a dirty Latino
from the darkest of dark Peru.
Then he got saved by that nice English family
who taught him to speak Proper,
dressed him in a mac and Wellington boots.
Now he’s cuddly, tame and cultured,
fits in so well with their living room!
Then again, who am I to judge?
I mean, I’m not that different myself:
just swap the marmalade for marijuana,
the Wellingtons for Doc Martens,
and I’m just another Londoner in Paddington station:
your token Oriental girl for hire
to make your subculture look diverse!
Fitting in so well with your shabby-chic furniture
and the latest gypsy folk-punk band.

See, we all like our foreigners ‘different’
but only in such a way that we can understand.
Just enough to call ourselves ‘tolerant’,
but not so much that we get out of hand.
Because beneath every rallying call for diversity
is that throbbing baseline beat:
Foreigner go home, foreigner go home, foreigner go home,
unless you’re serious about being just like me.
Then again, maybe I’m being too cynical,
I mean, I like the way I tweak my accent,
choose my clothes and cut my hair.
I like the looks I get when I go back home
as people stop and stare, muttering,
just another middle-class asshole,
corrupted by the West.

But these days I’m more likely to get flak
back home for how I speak Chinese,
see, my Mandarin’s tainted by a Beijing drawl
from making too many friends
who happen to have been born there.
These days, people tend to glare,
asking, are you PRC?
Meaning: how much can I respect you?
Are you one of us? Are you about to spit?
Did you shower in the past week?
Can I end this conversation now?
Didn’t you know, it’s the latest threat
to Singapore today: this flood of
People’s Republic-born Chinese,
out to flaunt their nouveau-richness
steal your husband, your job, your baby!

Because xenophobia is a meme,
found in every country.
I wish it was confined to
Daily Mail readers from Essex,
but it’s been here throughout history,
ever since the first Neanderthal
saw the first Homo Sapiens getting off
a boat from Africa and grunted,
hey, you’re not from here.
Then devolved into complaints
about too many Jewish and Irish people
clogging up London’s streets.
Then it was the Italians, the South Asians,
the Eastern Europeans: it’s like
every generation there’s a new culture
to discover, to blame, to hate.
And in the end, its not even being from
‘over there’, more like a constant test,
a list of boxes you must tick:
like passport colour, skin colour, accent,
language, clothes, most important:
how long it takes for you to get
one of their jokes.

You only pass when someone says
(but who is ‘them’ and who is ‘we’?)
And on and on and on it goes,
this constant litany, of
Foreigner go home, foreigner go home, foreigner go home
(but I’d really love to visit your village one day!)
Foreigner go home, foreigner go home, foreigner go home
(but leave us your cleaning skills, your football skills,
your takeaways, your lovely jewellery!)
Foreigner go home, foreigner go home, foreigner go home
(see I’ve always had this fantasy about, is it true that Asian girls…)
Foreigner go home, foreigner go home, foreigner go home
with me.

Because, Paddington Bear?
I bet even he gets tired of passing sometimes,
tired of playing that simpering, gentle toy
who should be so grateful to this country.
So keep your guilt, keep your ‘tolerance’
as if foreigners were alcohol,
so if you come across more than ten of us
in one night, you’re gonna start a pub brawl?
Keep your deep knowledge of my country.
I don’t even care if you’ve never heard of it before,
as long as you can imagine
a world before they created West and East,
just drop your assumptions, read my lips
and listen when we speak.

Stephanie Dogfoot is a poet who is inspired by anger, absurdity and small animals. Originally from Singapore, she has also lived in rural Ohio and central London. She won the Singapore National Poetry Slam in 2010 and the UK Farrago Slam in 2012, and has performed and hosted at various festivals and poetry nights in the UK, Belgium, France and Germany.  

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This entry was posted on 14/01/2014 by in humour, poetry, spoken word and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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