I myself sink ve hett inuff off Tayells off Pearsikewschon.
Maykink Efferivun into Viktim or Monster,
ziss kree-aytes Monsters oont Viktims out off ortinerry Peepl
hoo are chest doink best zay ken to surfife.
Zeze krep Nonzensis are bozzerink me ven I sort
I’te eskaypte zis Vurlt off entless Diffischon by dyink!
Off kors zair are zoze who are not so relekst apout
Refucheese, Immikrents, Ezye-lem Zeekers –
For all ze Sentureese in Fekt, zis hess been hot
oont kvite orkvoot Patayto – vezzer Peepl who moof
from zair Playse of Burse to anuzzer Spot
on Ziss vurlink Globe, for voteffer Reezon
are maykink zemselfs useful or unterstoot –
Are zay kontribewtink or do zay visch to be taykink sinks?
Are zay zufferink? Oont how do ve feel apout zat?
Vill ve offer a Cup off Tea or a bik Kik upp ze Ars?
It’z too late for my brittel olt Hart to brayke
my own Refuchee Chiltdrenn hoose Inklisch
voz so impekabel are lonk kolt in ze Grount ess I em.
ze Kontripewschons mayte by us London Inklisch
Chermen Choos are vell dokumente, eefen teedius!
Oont Essimilaschon vial it rekvires some Sekrifyse
ken no dowte be eesier ven ve look a bit leik Inklischers
hoos Skin is veit. Diffrent Voysiz enimayte ze Street zeez Dayze
but still ve shaykink our tiart olt Hedts from upp in ze borterlesse
etairnell Klautskaypes. For Gootness Zaykes, vot Balls
is ziss Inklandt forlink for now? Vot keint off Prokress
ken debayte vezzer to help zoze in Neet, runnink to Sayfety?
Notes on this poem
These dramatic monologues are written in a Lenkvitch that my ear remembers as the way my paternal grandmother spoke. My father’s family came here as refugees from Berlin in 1938. I never understood their household German, but found it a cosy and sometimes comical soundtrack. My first seventeen years were my grandmother’s last, all spent in our shared London, a place so insistently ‘home’, and yet endlessly renewing its identity. The real woman behind my fictionalised version made a wonderful refuge out of ordinariness, scenting it with caraway, cinnamon, Bach on the gramophone. Sometimes it’s hard to get more poems from her, she begs to rest, the doll of her in my pocket jumping up and down indignantly, saying, vot a Nonsenz!
Three section headings make up my book Velkom to Inklandt (Short Books, 2017) wristen in her borrowed voice and accent. These are Inklandt, Chermenny, and ze Afterleif. Of these new poems ‘Hostile Infyroment’ might fit with the Afterleif section, dealing as it does with now. ‘Dedt or Alyfe’ takes Liesl’s voice back into her very own twentieth century.
I heard voices speaking Inklisch not just in my family, but all over the London I grew up in. Now it delights me to hear other languages and accents on the street, all of which make me feel at home, and slightly hopeful, as if there might be some interesting pastries on the horizon!
– Sophie Herxheimer