Sunnah Khan reimagines a Scottish myth of helpful household faeries with a poem about a ‘hidden people’ and their arrival in Glasgow.
Commissioned for our World Storytelling Day event 2021, here’s a sneak preview from contributor Sunnah Khan. Read the poem below or listen to Sunnah’s reading.
In Scottish folklore faeries are spirit creatures or ‘hidden people’ who come in many different forms and temperaments. I was particularly intrigued by the good household faeries, goblin like creatures of the Highlands, who do odd jobs and help out around the house.
South Asian migrants are a well-known part of Scottish society, having settled in Scotland for over half a century. While stories of arrival have been orally passed down to me by my own mother, there’s a mythical quality to the lack of formal historical account and the quiet ways the first generation learnt to adapt and exist.
I was also intrigued by dictionary definitions of the word immigrant, one of which was ‘a permanent move to foreignness.’ I thought this was such a strange idea, to be forever trapped in the definition of not belonging.
Inspired by all these ideas I re-imagined a modern Scottish myth of a ‘hidden people’ and their arrival in Glasgow.
Asian teenager in turban washing his shop window in Easter Road laundrette in Edinburgh, January 1974.
A Permanent Move to Foreignness
Our father a foreign land, sorcerer in a black coat
We watched him sleep
watched him rise with the Others
prise himself out of our sardine can suitcase
we were truly prisoners then
trapped in our tongues, extradited from the sun,
no spells or safe words without him
our magic carpet was just a carpet
Our father, a desert tropic swamp – peripatetic rock
We became creatures of the shadows
hiding behind the bins hiding
while we learnt the names for things
the first words we learnt were GOOD and MORNING
we could turn a Glasgow grey day just by calling it so
we curled the Good around our tongues, sewed Good into our seams
stuffed Good into our pockets our hands
stripped fish, bone cold
we wore coats on top of coats, socks over our sandals