They left the heat of Uganda
deep into the night on Alitalia flight 204.
Their parents waved, silent on the tarmac.
The smell of kerosene gave way
to the fragrance of roses
on Raihana’s handkerchief.
She and Fahima already had a grip on Britain,
what with Jane Eyre,
The Avengers, Robin Hood.
Greeted by thrashing rain and migration officers:
Our reason for leaving?
That crazy Amin.
Blackburn’s streets were wet,
coal-blackened houses joined to keep out the cold,
outside toilets for the brave or desperate.
That’s the breweries!
A sickly astringent smell drifted on the wind,
smuts speckled line-hung whites.
Flowerbeds of tropical red and orange
splashed the town’s park,
but where was the scent, like home?
Men stared from doorways.
The shorter skirts were the first to go.
No, we’re not ‘Pakis’, we’re from Africa.
A secretarial tutor was kind
but never remembered Raihana’s name,
just called her chocolate buttons.
Raihana dreamed of her parents
with two drops of rose oil
on her pillow every night.
Frances March is a poet and performer with the Gloucestershire poetry troupe Picaresque, whose Poetry Among the Paintings was published in 2015. Previously she took an MA in Creative Writing (prose route) but has been hooked on writing poetry since.
“In this poem the task was to capture the feeling of the migrant, both on leaving the country of origin and on arrival. I had permission to write about my dear friend’s story, whose family came over from Uganda just before the expulsion of the Asians by Idi Amin in 1972. It has been a very stimulating and rewarding course with the reading materials, fellow poets and of course, the tutor Hannah Lowe.”