How to Be an Irish Emigrant: ‘Be born in Ireland. Leave.’
A poem by Ciarán Hodgers
Be born in Ireland.
Not for England,
for the love of God, they’ll only claim you as their own.
Go somewhere different enough like
Canada, Australia, Thailand
or Mars if you have to.
if the far side of town isn’t far or exotic enough,
what’s your problem?
Come home, often.
Suddenly be really into trad music,
Dublin slang and tourism adverts.
Smile at familiar flags but
be sceptical of those hanging outside pubs.
Pronounce three and tree differently,
otherwise expect the number nine
when you ask for a small forest.
Avoid London. It will feel too much like home.
how many names there can actually be for a bread roll,
and Boxing Day. Don’t ever call it Boxing Day.
Get used to people wishing they could visit
and if they do, roll out the vinyl tablecloth and feast
on chicken fillet rolls, red lemonade,
Tayto crisp sandwiches and a real pint of Guinness,
which, yes, is obviously better at home.
Arm yourself with this fact to brighten awkward taxi rides
and new colleagues.
Call it home and home home,
discover the word is a wide stance across separate shores.
When you are called not really foreign
it will feel like a swift kick in the ocean
but it has nothing to do with rotting roots
and all to do with history books buried behind British teeth.
Remind them you are extrinsic
by reeling off pidgin phrases in your second tongue
risen from dusty classrooms like they were lyric.
Sing póg mo thóin and call it poetry.
Support the NHS.
Learn the difference between the British Isles
and the United Kingdom.
Know the fractured histories
so you can stand your ground
regardless of who it belongs to.
Don’t ever compare the Irish slave trade to any other,
and challenge those who do.
Remind them of clinging to American steeples
while black bodies burned,
that the oppressed are masters of tradition.
Remember coffin ships when you see dinghies,
how borders are as manmade as terror and kindness.
Know the history of your privilege sits between
sovereignty and the exiled, let it be turf for warmth.
Call your mother more.
Know that mate is meant to sound endearing.
Shut up and listen; it would be a shame to come this far
and learn nothing.
Work like a fucking Paddy.
Don’t ever allow yourself to be called Paddy, or Mick, or drunk
unless you are.
Pack old myth and solstices wherever you go;
you never know where you might need them.
Just tell people you’re from Dublin.
Be proud but progressive, remember but relinquish,
commemorate but transgress.
Spill the parting glass once for the land,
once for present company
and once for the road ahead.
Let go. Your heritage is not a competition;
it is the co-captain of a loyal but untrained crew.
Reconcile how change strikes abruptly now
instead of incremental
with home’s objective permanence.
Open your heart to whichever surrogate city will have you,
but, most importantly,
loosen your grip.
Leaving doesn’t have to be a knife.
Ciarán Hodgers is a multi-award winning Irish spoken word poet, now living in Liverpool. His debut collection Cartography is published by Burning Eye Books. ciaranhodgers.com and burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/cosmocartography-by-ciaran-hodgers