After Being Called a Fucking Foreigner in London Fields

A new poem by Raymond Antrobus.

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Because Dad slapped me
every time I fell into the metal railings
besides the swings, I was the first
in school to cycle without
training wheels. Dad’s style
of discipline didn’t check
for blood, just picked
me up with one hand,
red BMX in the other, his face
a fist, come, come,
pushed me along as I tried
to breathe and balance
the threat of a crash or
punch. A presence I feel in my chest
twenty-five years later walking
on the cycle path in the same park.
I keep my father’s words, violence
is always a failure
, so I don’t
swing into the man’s pale
bag-face when he throws
his arms up to fight me.
The truth is I’m not
a fist fighter. I’m all heart,
no technique. Last fought
at sixteen. Broke
two fingers and fractured
my wrist after a bad
swing, my boys bursting to see
a rumble, shouting, breathe breathe breathe,
which is also what my anger
counsellor said when I punched
the wall in her office but seriously –
who gets into fights in their thirties?
Nowadays, instead of violence,
I write until everything goes
quiet. No one can tell me
anything about this radiance.
I’m riding like a boy
on his red BMX – I see myself
turning off the path, racing past
the metal railings, the empty swings.

Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, east London, to an English mother and Jamaican father, and is the author of "The Perseverance", which has just been published by Penned in the Margins. He is the winner of the 2017 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.

This article appears in the 26 October 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit crash