Three poems by Hannah Lowe

image © Dirk Skiba

 
 

    Sonnet for the British-Born

 

And suddenly, new language: ‘British-Born’,
for kids who grew up on terraces in Leeds
or tower blocks in Bow, and at weekends tied
their bootlaces for footie on the lawn
and went to college to study Sports or Business
or Car Mechanics and spoke with accents thick
as Yorkshire mud or London bullet-quick –
bare good and innit – and were as British as

a pack of salt-and-vinegar, and no,
his teacher hadn’t noticed him withdrawing
and no, his mother hadn’t wondered who
he called at 2am in the blue lit bedroom
of their bungalow, though despite her scrubbing,
the words still clear on their garden wall: ‘Go Home’.

 
 

    The Only English Kid

 

When the debate got going on ‘Englishness’,
I’d pity the only English kid – poor Johnny
in his spotless Reeboks and blue Fred Perry.
He had a voice from history: Dunno-miss,
Yes-miss, No-miss – all treacly-cockney,
rag-and-bone – and while the others claimed Poland,
Ghana, Bulgaria, and shook off England
like the wrong team’s shirt, John brewed his tea

exclusively on Holloway Road. So when Aasif
mourned the George Cross banner swinging freely
like a warning from his neighbour’s roof —
the subway tunnel sprayed with ‘Muslim Scum’ —
poor John would sit there quietly, looking guilty
for all the awful things he hadn’t done.

 
 

    The Only Black Girl

 

The kids flicked names at her like Ludo counters,
not just for being black, but for living, like I did,
the wrong side of the tracks – no million-quid
mock-Tudors in Forest Gate or Ilford. Scrounger,
jew-girl, sponger. But Natalie was a fighter,
a whadyou-call-me poke-and-puncher. She smacked
and shoved her way into a tighter crook –
the office – where a gang of teachers caught her

and that was that. Then later, when some mother-
or-the-other saw my dad parked up,
I caught a blow or two – oi pick-n-mixer!
white wog! But I had skin the kids forgot
and none of Natalie’s fire: there was no wallop
or slap in the hands I clenched inside my pockets.

 

Hannah Lowe

About Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe is a writer based in London. Her first poetry collection 'Chick' (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award. In 2014, she was named as one of 20 Next Generation British poets. She lectures in Creative Writing at Brunel University. She tweets @hannahlowepoet and her website is at www.hannahlowe.me.