Restless and ardent - Vanessa Kisuule's poem from the Civil Society Days


During the GFMD Civil Society Days 2016, few speakers got more applause than Vanessa Kisuule, British spoken word artist, multiple poetry slam winner and our inspirational speaker. A member of the Ugandan diaspora, she managed to express a variety of thoughts, feelings, doubts and fantasies on the “migrant experience” in her two interventions during the Opening Ceremony of the Civil Society Days - which were unanimously celebrated by participants, even retrospectively in the event’s evaluation survey. 

Here is her first poem performed at the Opening Panel:

We Are Restless (Waves)

It's why my toes wiggle at the sight

Of sand and sea

Why wings are an international symbol

Of freedom

Why the pages of a passport are stiff

Unmoved by the caress of the breeze

Gutless birds

Landlocked in our shaking palms

It's why when children dream of who they

might be, their heads instinctively tilt upwards

To the sky

It's why there's sky and the promise of an

ultimate destination, a Heaven, a god

It's why the sky's hanging heavy with many

Unanswered prayers lately

It's why tears and sweat and the ocean taste the same

When you touch your tongue to them

It's why a West Indian woman drowns

her full English fry up in hot sauce

Trying to walk her tongue back to the ragged

Path of the last place she felt she belonged

It's why it never tastes like how your mother made it

It's why flags fill some of us with pride

And others with terror

It's why when we ask them to 'go back'

We are invoking time machines, magic wands

Pleading bullets to sail back into their barrels

There is nothing to go back to

No greatness, no glory, no sacred purity

Somehow crushed in the clumsy

Hands of globalisation

But politicians have to sell us something

We all have to invest in something

It’s why we feel light-headed and dizzy

Must be the travel sickness, the amnesia

The constant chase for 'the good old days'

That glitter so bright from this safe refuge

Of nostalgia

It's why it feels like the room is spinning

Or collapsing, or burning

It's why, ultimately, borders sag

With the weight of things

They cannot contain

It's why the word home is not composed

Of mortar, or straw

Marble, or wood

No, home is the place that is carried

On the slope of a back

Like a snail shell – fragile

Easily shattered under foot

It's why home can be ripped

From beneath you

From under your tongue

From over your head

Home is the splinters of your life

Stuffed into a black bin liner

Home is waiting in a queue

The immigration officer asking

You to translate your tired smile

Into English

It's why I lay in bed last night

And listened to the ballad of the wind

Even she, the most fickle of travellers

Was dragged by the ear

To a place of pins and paperwork

Told she must be still and silent

Place a pin into her heart and

Pledge allegiance to her prison

It's why the air is so still

And stories don't carry as easy as they should

The cruellest trick history has played on us

The notion that we own this tapestry of earth

Our dogged feet rest upon

It's why we draw lines in the sand

And stand fearfully behind them

Like alters

It's why when we move, when we break

When we shake down the gates and the walls

And the borders

We, the restless, do not move in lines

But in waves

More words and energy from Vanessa on her facebook page and in her recent Ted Talk.