I Buried My Britishness on Imperial Road

I think of the bleak Somme rain
filling my great-grandfather’s battle frowns
these were not the valleys of his Welsh village
where a local library moved books for Kitchener’s finger
and once happy children were known as Kaiser’s bastards.

I think of his passive vow for a King who bejewelled soil –
In comer-bands of intestines steaming in the trench.
His ardent vow to pass on a stranger’s letter
that woman was with child and madness,
she begged him to just lay with her.

I am watching the funeral of Prince Phillip and a man,
and an asylum-seeking baby, and a philanderer.
Outside in the rosebush are two greenflies,
one is on top of the other and throbbing
the other is pinned down like a medal.

I am watching a bulldog lick its huge bulbous bollocks
and then lick its owner’s face and tea-stained teeth.
I have just returned from Imperial Road
in mourning from a lack of Britishness
an old friend unfriends me in secret.

I am wondering where it all went wrong in my half British heart.
Perhaps it was cuckoo spit on a rose that reminded me
of an Indian friend called a nigger wiping off spit.
Perhaps it was the blood diamonds on the BBC
worn in a crown and unreturned like heroes.

I am thinking of what a hero is to an A-typical patriot.
Is it my Nan bombed out of her house in Coventry?
Is it my Nan pulling out splinters of number 26?
Is it her kids dousing flames from bedwetting?
Is it Jasbir being urinated on for just being?

I am checking my Facebook messages for warnings
“Do not write a poem about the Royals if I were you”
“You are a brand now, think of your reputation”
I read words like these and art itself dies
like black seeds of rain in Hiroshima.

I am called a cunt by a patriot and told I am a disgrace
“people like you shouldn’t be allowed to live here”.
Perhaps I never lived here in mythical England.
Perhaps St George had an aboriginal spear
and hurled it at a slitty eyed Chinese dragon.

Perhaps I am just human branded British,
A brand then, I must protect my brand.

Antony Owen writes about the consequences of conflict and forgotten people. His work has been shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award and his 8th collection Phoenix is to be translated by Thelem Press (Germany) in summer 2021. Read other articles by Antony.