Farmers of Heathrow, my mother’s family were Anglo-Saxon,
but for one Scottish great-grandmother to leaven the English.
My Jewish father, raised and schooled in Edinburgh,
left Scotland and Judaism. Did that make him English?
Hitler would think me Jewish enough, the Chief Rabbi
(should I ask him) wouldn’t: default position – English.
I grew up in suburban Birmingham, my mixed blood
mingled with the soft Welsh water stolen by the English.
My language was delivered to me with the bottled milk
at the doorstep and at school. My greatest gift, my English.
By this blessing I’m entitled to take it all for granted,
and mutter under my breath at this land of the English.
Forgetfully arrogant, trying not to try too hard, proudly
we take up the cringe: pardon our empire, we’re English.
Understatement and gentle irony, you say, have sunk us
underneath fair play and self-blame. We can be just “too English”.
I’m afraid so – though, while you’re saying it, the ones
who like to be disliked are counting up who counts as English.
Bury me elsewhere if you must, but I can claim the earth
beneath Terminal 3: a place to welcome you in English.
Published in Poetry London (2012)