blackmail press 31  Marginalization
John McLister

Marginalization - Pauline Canlas Wu
John McLister was born in Scotland and grew up in the port town of Lyttelton. He worked as a labourer and wharfie after leaving school. For the past twenty years, he has lived in Japan where he has been active in a trade union for foreign workers.

Coming Here

I was born before the 1960s to a people on a ledge
the Scots said to be dour and tight
but many are good with children.
Relatives and neighbours laughed, liked and loved me.
A big dog and a small dog guarded my pram.
The move came on a long boat trip.
I feared the edges; feared falling into the passing sea.
I banged my head on the ship’s pool, the blood spreading on the water.
From Auckland to Christchurch we creaked on a Vickers Viscount.
The stewardess offered me a boiled lolly, but the sickness continued on arrival.
At the Main, I learnt to hide from a little nasty boy and a bigger nastier boy.
Teachers scolded, get out of the playground.
The father laughed, it will toughen him up.
Adults in doorways turned from me running.
The promised land: a box of broken biscuits.
I chose a sport late.
The father was displeased, it’s not a Scots’ game.
I wheezed and was useless but the coach always subbed me on.
Half a game for all players it was team policy, no one ever complained.
I took tackles, turned over the accent; learnt to speak Kiwi and suspicion.
I got tall, then Bird and Smith finally let me alone.
Bird’s mum cried when he died of cancer
Smith’s dad cursed his useless druggy son.
But still, I choose to remember that
a big dog and a small dog once guarded my pram.

My Foreigner

Here is my foreigner.
I caught it at a temple in Kyoto.
It migrates here to make money,
climb mount Fuji,
to make money,
to try and mate with our women.
Look at its nose.
It is just like an elephantʼs trunk.
Look at the hair on its arm.
It is just like a hairbrush.
It can not speak our language.
Our language is too hard,
too unique for it.
It does try.
It is so cute,
the funny little sounds it makes.
But, best not encourage it.
I am learning its talk though.
I made it my teacher.
That is the only thing it can do here.
It is cheap.
We do not need to pay it the same as us.
The yen is strong.
We do it a favour by offering it employment.
One year work contracts are fine.
Limit it to three years.
Then we can get a new one,
after the old one is put down.

It wants to go back home anyway
here is not its home
here is just too different for it.
In the end,
it needs its own kind
needs to fly back.
It is useful at parties.
Associates like to ask me things about it.
I get it to introduce itself.
It likes to feel important.
You can ask me
questions about it.
I am quite the expert.
It is not that difficult a creature to understand.
Mine mated with one of us.
Her parents were against it.
You can understand why.
Its child is a half.
So cute.
It could be on TV.
It could be a model maybe.
Let me see your one.
Oh, it is just like mine.
They all look just the same, do they not.