Expat Bubble (A Poem)

For Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets Pub, I thought I’d attempt a spoken word poem. I’m not going to torture you with my recorded voice (or display my lack of technical ability) but you have to imagine quite a jaunty, jarring, hectic note to this one.
Get out, get out from the suffocating glass bell, I want to yell,
but we’re protected so safe within, we survey the scene
with composure, without compunction, with complacency…
And do we even have the decency
to try and learn the language? Do we, hell! And when
people say ‘Non’ we puff, ‘Well, well…what a country, what a system, how do they survive?’

But to me, they feel alive.
Oh, sure, they moan and cuss, groan and fuss,
there’s no British exclusivity or prior claim, you know…
But, on the whole, they let us be, in our inane inability
to pronounce ‘pain’ properly.
When we gather with high-pitched gazelle squeals at watering holes,
descend from our Landies to gather our children under squawking wings
from rugby and ballet, theatre and tennis, piano and gym,
pointing their little toes, pouting their objections…
When we sigh how our lives are filled way past the brim
yet each day another piece of meaning drops off into emptiness…
I want to take that first person plural pronoun
and smash it in resounding, resolute, smithereenish crashings.
I want to proclaim no allegiance, no herding, not me,
I’m not one of them!
But my passport tells another story.

43 thoughts on “Expat Bubble (A Poem)”

  1. What a beautifully rendered telling of your story, Marina Sofia! You do such an effective job of showing what it’s like in and out of that bubble.

  2. I would have loved to hear you read it.. there is such an explosive energy in your wordchoice.. I have many colleagues who are either expats in Sweden or have been expats elsewhere… and for sure being an expat the passport never lies..

    1. I’m working up my courage to perform spoken word poetry – that’s my goal for this year. Not quite there yet, but thanks for your encouragement.

  3. Brilliant and I would love to hear you reading it too!
    Speaking as a Brit – not sure whether you are Marina (and tried to find clues on your blog) – we have this great thing, when resident in our own country of expecting of expecting immigrants to follow the ‘When in Rome’ thing – but once an ex-pat we expect those crazy foreigners to respect our Britishness and do not follow the ‘When in Rome’ thing ourselves.
    Such is life!
    Anna :o]

    1. I have a British passport now but am not sure what I can consider myself – became a British citizen only 10 years ago. What gets me is that when citizens from Western countries go to live abroad, they are expats, while when citizens from poorer countries (or those of colour) are called ‘immigrants’. I’ve been in both camps.

      1. Interesting point re expats and immigrants – never considered it before. Wonder whether it is down to (Western) feelings of superiority…
        Anna :o]

        1. Noooo, never!!! You think???? (Sorry, I sometimes get a little bitter about the subject. Especially when they stay somewhere for years and still don’t learn the language and moan about fish and chips not being as good as back home, or Marmite not being available…)

  4. For most of us, you have shared some expat angst that seems unfamiliar (need I say foreign?) But the rant is uber-cool, & yes it would make excellent spoken word performance!

    1. I suppose it makes a sort of warped sense to live in a bubble if you think you are only going to be in a country for a few years and then move on to the next (like a serial monogamist?), but I see some who have been living here for 20 plus years and still make no effort to integrate…

  5. I can totally relate having lived in three countries, traveled to many more including Hong Kong where my brother is an expat too. I think that those of us who love languages, cultures and differences feel we are sitting on the fence. We do not identify with a lot of expats but we will never be natives either.

  6. I read your poem, then the comments, then your poem again. I think the comments helped me understand. I think it would be hard to know what to call oneself if one lived in another country but was formerly living in another. Kind of walking the fence…feet in both countries. Not easy, but it seems a lot of people have this experience. Your poem resonated much more on second reading!

    1. Pleased to hear the comments helped you to grasp the situation better – and that you honoured it with a second reading. Yes, I’ve been an immigrant (as in, settling permanently elsewhere) and am now an expat (as in, only temporarily here) and I know I belong everywhere and nowhere.

  7. Such a rant of marvelous scale. I would love to hear you reading this. In my slow Southern voice, it still tore the room apart. Having lived in Japan and England, I tried to immerse myself and respect those around me because I was the foreigner, after all. I actually felt more out of place living in Washington, DC! Now that is one crazy foreign place and as I read your poem, it took me back there….a stranger in a strange land.

    1. Ah, yes, DC is like Geneva – full of many different nationalities and all sorts of entitlement (also, a lot more poverty that is virtually invisible if you don’t venture too far east).

    1. Thank you. I actually started off the poem with the third person plural ‘they, them’ and then slowly it dawned on me… I am one of them. At least in the eyes of the ‘natives’.

      1. Can relate to the feelings of an expat/immigrant (!), having lived in a different country for a while. There’s a lot of good stuff to assimilate, no matter how superficial the integration.. came back enriched -in a way.

  8. missed the recitation hope to hear someday…sometimes such confusions lead to identity crisis…your poem reminds me of an America born Indian writer who is now permanently residing in Italy…she writes in English…

  9. This would be so fun to listen to–but, like you, my technological deficiencies have kept me from recording my poetry. I especially enjoyed the internal rhyme and the allusions to various cultures. Great work.

    1. Maybe we can make a joint resolution that we will master this technology or technique before the end of the year… or some other deadline.

  10. The older I get the more I realize most of us are foreigners of our nature..
    And that’s a had place to live in nature.. in most any culture the same
    time.. my passport has no cultural clothes.. but i am always welcome
    among others of nature who are free..:)

  11. that nasty passport has a way of bringing us back…even though we may not wish to identify with others in our country. Bravo on a wonderful spoken word piece!

  12. This is indeed very vocal – I could imagine what you said in your note.

    I want to take that first person plural pronoun
    and smash it in resounding, resolute, smithereenish crashings

    and the ending is simply brilliant. I sometimes wish to give my poem a voice, but I feel that I seriously lack it.

  13. Born in Africa to Canadian parents, I was ‘other’ before I was even anything else and my passport has never defined me properly….so your words really resonated with me. Really interesting and thought-provoking rant here. Enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Thank you. It’s hard to realise that you are never fully accepted anywhere, even in your passport country, but this was a more specific rant of not wanting to identify with the ‘colonialists’, if you like.

  14. i really enjoy spoken-word poetry. it’s so fresh and straight-forward! you did exceptionally well. i really appreciate the way you spoke of how some times it feels as if pieces of days are falling into emptiness. routine can be a drag!

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