Poem: February Finds Me Struck Down With Flu
Nathan Nelson

February finds me struck down with flu.
Between the sneezing and spring cleaning my room
I text a French teacher friend who’s off-work too.
He was born in northern Lille:
If he takes a wrong turn, he finds himself in Belgium.
I tell him,
We take a wrong turn here in Britain
We drive into the sea.
He laughs at me; thanks me for the image.
He’s not sure he’ll be able to remain
In this island nation with too few teachers.
And I too mourn the passing of my right,
To belong beyond foreign borders.
And as if Sajid Javid is keeping tabs on my WhatsApp,
In the same hour it turns out that
Citizenship is a construct so abstract
Within a midnight it can collapse flat.
We care if children are groomed and raped,
But not if their skin isn’t quite the right shade,
Not if it’s too difficult to pronounce their name.
And when I say I’m disturbed by this approach,
Strangers tell me my citizenship should also be revoked.
And funnily enough,
They’re the same people who hate Mari Kondo,
The foreigner come to steal our books.
Well judging by your logic, mate,
You’ve never picked one up.
Within seconds, truths distorted,
You’ve resorted to curses and personal comments.
“What language do you speak, Amber-Page Marilyn,
Is it bollocks?”
Well I’m sorry,
But I don’t understand how standing up for our own laws
Imply that I support
So-called Islamic State.
It is impossible to debate
With those
Who must have never looked at a globe
Because they think Bangladesh and Syria are the same.
And a child born and raised in Bethnal Green
Can be made
Into someone else’s problem.
But I’d rather see homegrown terrorists locked in a homegrown prison,
Not left free to carry on plotting against homegrown civilians,
Not the responsibility of a country she did not live in,
Which her sin was not committed in,
A sin which she has yet to face trial and be convicted of.
And our government pull strings like puppets,
With no more power than to appease the mob.
So looks like our laws only apply to those that we approve of.
But in the face of extremist chaos, our laws are all we’ve got.
This is not a question of guilt or innocence,
But of our democratic principles.
What kind of victors
Will we be now that we’ve won the war?
Won’t we uphold British values; the rights of minors; one rule for all
That no one in this land can stand above or below the law,
Neither teenage terrorists nor
Appointed members of the Cabinet.
And all these calls for banishment,
All this ‘she’s made her bed, she’s lying it in’,
Thus holding British girls to Shariah standards,
All that you say is horrifically reminiscent of ISIS.
But I would never accuse you of being one of them,
Because that would be ridiculous.
As ridiculous as this is –
Not to hold up our own citizens to our own definitions.
And they must be laughing at us
So hard,
For attempting their own rhetoric against them.
Aren’t we supposed to be the vaguely Christian, secular brand of western?
Aren’t we the ones who don’t bay for blood, revenge, beheadings?
Since when did the crime of the parent become the crime of the children?
Don’t we stand for equality, representation, compassion?
Don’t we recognise that there are no easy answers?
Your black and white knee-jerk reaction is a fallacy.
And no, I also can’t comprehend this case’s complexity.
That’s why we have lawyers to uphold our law’s consistency .
Because this is not the thirteenth century.
This is not an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,
Drowning old women in local ponds, the Inquisition expelling Jews.
This is democracy.
There are structures, procedures, jurisdictions, rules.
They do not slip because one side shouts the loudest,
Or threatens the most violence,
Like Samson tearing down the temple.
This is David and Goliath,
When the world is overturned because little boys took down giants.
We know what happens when the moderate majority are quiet,
We have seen this all before.
If you stay silent, there’s no one left to speak
When you’re the one they come for.
Well I won’t be waiting for them to come and break down my door.
I stand within the pentacle of protection,
The privilege of my white skin, my English name,
And My Oxbridge education.
I will be one of the last ones standing
On the edge of this island nation,
To fall in to the sea.
And unless you use your advantage while you have the chance,
You’re going to be drowning along with me.