Dare to Cross

you stood, blair,
white against white

till, in this land growing brown,
you were, by white,

struck white

who was blair peach,
we ask the children in blair peach school

and they do not know
the winners of the blair peach award

have never read the lyrics of ralph mctell
never sighted the radiance of peach

crossing the boundary
between new zealand and this country

crossing the boundary between this
world and the next

did you glimpse why the emperor zhu houcon
yellowed china by the flames

greying his own navy
or why the tokugawa iemitsu

bloodied his own people
did you suddenly spot why argentina declined

from being the richest country in the world
did you foresee russia closing under putin

india under modi
america under trump

england ruled by the people you resisted

they want to freeze
what you were struggling to keep flowing

you lost colour
we gained

so we dare to cross the boundary
take the blair as our own

we breathe peach air
peach blood flows in our veins

we blare, glare, flare


• Author’s Note:  This poem is written in memory of Blair Peach, the New Zealander who was killed by members of the SPG (a specialist unit at that time in the Metropolitan Police Force) during an anti-racism demonstration in Southall, in April 1979. Public dismay at the killing, as well as police cover-ups following that for several years (combined with other contributory factors) led to the 1971 Brixton riot, and to the Public Inquiry by Lord Scarman, with consequent changes in the law.  A school in Southall is named after Peach, the National Union Teachers has since 2010 given the Blair Peach Award each year to recognise work on equality and diversity, One For Blair (anthology of poems) was edited by Chris Searle (1989), The 2-Tone Story album is dedicated to Peach’s memory, and there are many others who wish to keep Peach’s legacy from being extinguished.

••  Please note that “blair” is Scots for “field”

Prabhu Guptara is a retired professor living in Cambridge, UK. Read other articles by Prabhu.