The Earth is Turning
by Dani Watson
A new poetry collection informed by experiences of migration.
In 2016, Dani Watson participated in ‘Young Europeans’, a programme led by New Writing North, and supported by D6: Culture in Transit. In the lead up to the European Referendum, young writers in the North East were invited to creatively respond to, ‘Should we stay or should we go?’ - an alternative public campaign.
Dani explored the reductionist nature of the ‘Leave’ campaign and how it targeted migrants across the region. She produced two new poems ‘More Than A Feeling’ and ‘I Read the News Today, Oh Boy’ capturing the zeitgeist.
This marked the beginning of Dani’s journey with D6, as the inaugural Writer in Residence from May 2017 and August 2018. During her residency, Dani spent time with artist Henna Asikainen, participating in her artist-led commissions 'Forage' and 'Delicate Shuttle'. The commissions, supported by D6, stemmed from Henna’s own experience of migration from Finland to the North East of England and invited newly arrived individuals, families and groups met through the Kittiwake Multilingual Library English Language Conversation Group to participate in ‘cultural foraging’ walks. In her words, her practice is “an attempt to understand what it means to leave and to arrive, to lose and to find, to be uprooted and to make a home.”
To experience the collection, please use your mouse to scroll down the page.
The earth is turning
The clock is ticking
The seasons are merging
The people are leaving
The sea level is rising
A belief is forming
A landscape is changing
And to survive is to adapt.
There’s a job on the horizon
There’s a war at your heels
There’s men who said you couldn’t go to school
And a madman is after your blood.
There’s love on the equator
There’s hope beyond the border
There’s riots in the streets
And adventure in your soul.
There’s no more food beneath the soil
There’s no more water in the rivers
There’s a hurricane approaching
And your home is in the eye of the storm.
There’s your family in one place
There’s your future in another
There’s nearly two hundred countries on this earth
And you’ve only seen one.
There’s the life you hoped for
There’s the life you lived through
There’s your plans and dreams
And the events that tore them at the seams.
Sometimes we move through life like leaves
Swept up in the midst of a headstrong breeze
Unsure of where we’re headed
At the mercy of some greater force.
Home in Pieces
When home catches fire
No one waits there to burn
No one braves the water
Unless it’s the last place to turn
Home is in pieces, hastily packed
Home is whatever can be forced in a rucksack
It is displaced family spread farther than rubble
Home is a slowly puncturing bubble
And with every border climbed or crossed
Another piece of home is lost
A passport, a photo, a language, a daughter
So much of home has drowned in the water
Or left between interrogations and
Restless nights in railway stations
Home has become a breadcrumb trail
Without route or destination
Home is the threat of deportation
From leaders of another nation
Who from the comfort of their home
Or some governmental dome
Puzzle at migration
Like an unsolvable equation
And then without hesitation
Say go back to where you came from.
Where No One Speaks Your Language
Where no one speaks your language
Around every corner is a brick wall
Built of unlearnt words and run-away verbs
At the borders of conversation
We are voices lost in translation.
To command a stranger’s language
Is like trying to write left-handed
Without it we are stranded
Throats gagged with broken grammar
Tongues tied into a stammer
To make camp in English classes
Until our mouths can match the masses.
In someone else’s language
It is easy to be branded
By those who will never know
What it is to leave a home
With no promise of another
To have a tongue that will always run back to its mother
And a language that sits in your mouth
Like a visitor in a stranger’s house.
Sometimes leaving home is a choice
Sprung from the barrel of a gun
A decision made without time to plan
A feeling that grows when nothing else can
Or an idea that strikes on sleepless nights
Like a missile falling from mid-flight.
We do not always choose to leave home
Sometimes we are bereaved of home
Sometimes there is not much left of home to leave
When home turns from a place we sleep
To a place we come to grieve.
Sometimes we think it temporary
Until what remains of home is fading memory
Of a place we once belonged
Before we were told to keep moving on
To another city, another land
And upon arriving find another door slammed
On our hopes of home.
To be robbed of home is to know
That it is not a place set in stone
Anyone could be forced to leave
We are all one war from catastrophe
And if you traced your nationality
Through the roots of your family tree
You too might find a someone
Who came here from somewhere
To make a home.
Voices of Migration
If you ask me why I left, I will tell you that I had long out grown this little nest. That to stay would be to suffocate. That like the birds, it is in my blood…
…to fly was impossible. I gave all my money to a man who promised he’d smuggle me out of a country I thought I’d grow old in. I packed and unpacked but there are no suitcases big enough to hold your entire world and no easy way of saying goodbye to…
…my parents told me stories about all the countries they visited before I was born. They told me that this life is short, and this world is vast, and I will never see it all from…
…my little village is getting swallowed by the sea. At this height; my house, my school, the old factory and all I’ve ever known dissolves like a tablet in water. By the time the seat belt sign flashes off, my country has already…
…faded memory is all that is left. Home exists somewhere between my grandmother’s stories and the family photo on the mantelpiece. I wonder if on my return, it would open its arms to me like an old friend or look upon me like…
…a stranger marches up to us in the street and tells us we should be speaking English. There are only so many miles of ocean wedged between myself and home, but in this country I have never felt more…
…Alien was the first American film I ever saw and I watched it thinking how terrifying it must be to be a person hunted simply for the fact of being…
..alive in me is the fear of losing who I am. These clothes feel strange on my body. This accent tastes like a lie. One day I will open my mouth to find my tongue forked with the weight of two…
…languages are harder than any border to break down. I live in a country that cannot pronounce my name. On my first day of English school, a boy tells me…
…to go back home was never an option. You can’t return to a house still in flames and even when the smoke has settled it will never look….
…the same people who march against migration are the first to forget that history is like an old man re-telling the same story to deaf ears. Until it happens, no one would ever believe that oppression could come…
…knocking at their door, a soldier told my neighbours that, from now on, they must wear their religion on their sleeves. That was the day home turned its back on them and that same night they fled from…
…Germany is where I’m trying to reach. I heard its borders are opening. I heard there are people with signs saying ‘refugees welcome’. I don’t know how I’ll get there. But I have my life. I have my two feet. I have my…
… faith is the only thing I could take with me and it’s been keeping me alive ever since. I see you on the face of every brown haired girl I pass in the street. I pray every night for our reunion. That one day I’ll get a call to pick you up…
…at the immigration office, he asks why I left. I ask him why does anyone ever leave? Why do we move cities, streets, or from the homes of our mothers? Maybe migration is in our blood. Some just migrate further than others.
This Land was Never Ours
This land was never ours to own
It is not the birthright of a throne
It is not the property of an elected party
Or the spoils of a ruling army
It is not something to be bought or grabbed
Or claimed by a sovereign flag
This land carries like a sombre hearse
Those who died fighting for their plot of earth.
This land was never ours to own
No one has the right alone
To decide who can stay and who should leave
It not our nature to live and die
In that one same spot beneath the sky
While all above us birds fly
Over structures built to fortify
And maybe from their distant eye
A border is a just a scar etched across the earth.
This land was never ours to own
It is something we have always known
Yet we still fortify our nation
With red tape and legislation
Building walls in place of bridges
To keep strangers on the fringes
It is peculiar to think that
For all our intellect and grace
No species seems to fear itself
Quite like the human race.
The Earth is Turning was produced by D6: Culture in Transit and has been kindly supported by New Writing North, the Newcastle Culture Investment Fund and with public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Special thanks to Henna Asikainen and the Kittiwake Multilingual Library English Language Conversation Group.
Photo Credits: Arto Polus
Sound: Ben Ponton
'Where No One Speaks Your Language' performed by Amin Goodarzi
'The Earth is Turning' and 'This Land was Never Ours' performed by Dani Watson