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.

That said, 
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.

Discover Victorianism, 
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. and

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