On the Move book cover
Created: 6th October, 2021

Where Do We Come From?

I come from when houses were ruined,

the skies had stopped exploding,

my father in Germany meeting

the skeleton of a dinosaur in the snow

in the wrecked Berlin Natural History Museum,

my mother holding on to my brother,

having just lost a living, walking, just-talking toddler

to a never-ending cough,

my parents who grew up when you could buy

a live chicken in Hessel Street,

my father sharing his bnedroom with his Uncle Sam

but never talking to him because one day

Sam had grabbed the cap my father had bought

down Petticoat Lane and turned it inside out.

who switched the light off, Father?”

“Neither of us. We didn’t have lights.

We had a candle.”

My mother having to bring flowers to school

for Harvest Festival but she had no garden,

so she walked down Globe Road

looking for a flower to pick

but there were none,

and there were Mosley’s Men out too,

looking for Jews,

and the uncles who never came back

from camps in Poland, just vanished, gone,

but I was here, made from all this, all this,

it goes on, it hadn’t stopped,

there was my father swearing in Yiddish:

Chaliera zolste nehmen.”

“Don’t say that, Harold!” my mum says to him.

And now I can say it too.

And now I can say it too.


© Michael Rosen, from On the Move: Poems About Migration, Walker, 2020


Michael Rosen - Where Do We Come From?