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Songs of the Way

Linda Marshall

© Linda Marshall 25th September 2017


Song of the Way

The vanishing road

Ne atchin-tan (No resting place)


For my uncle

Straw birth

The last survivors


Romani music


A daughter of the Roma

Djelem, djelem

My identity

The Roma

I am Roma

Amaro yekhipe (Our unity)

Our Lady of Romanistan

Song of the Way

Now here I go

Through wind and snow,

Through sun and rain,

Pleasure and pain,

To find the goal

That haunts my soul.

Here, where the way begins and ends,

I lie down among true friends.

The Vanishing Road


we walked along a street we did not know,

hearing the mocking laughter of pursuit

ring in our ears, feeling the hunger gnaw

away inside, though wrapped up in the sheet

of love surrounding us, we shivered,

as everywhere we felt the coldness settle,

and both our living voices harshly quavered

at the assault of those to whom we're cattle,

and the clouds above us seemed like predatory wings

of mythical monsters out to work us harm,

and though we felt their claws like chains or thongs

seek to restrain us, somehow we stood firm

until the nightmare caught us in its spell,

and wound us in with its unending spool


we found ourselves outside the known parameters

of time and space; the Thames, the Mississippi,

vanishing along with Earth's perimeters

into a void where no one could be happy,

till somehow through the wormhole we emerged

to see the ghosts of those long dead staring

into our own blank faces; eyes enlarged

as if on drugs, we felt the constant steering

of our unwilling selves towards some end

beyond our comprehension. Then, eyes agape,

we saw ourselves in a dreadful sarabande

dance at the end of the executioner's rope

while round us others dangled from the gallows

by the riverbank overhung with willows


Pislikurja, save me if you can!

I strive, I struggle, to escape this street

where all around I see our murdered kin

and know we too will share the self-same fate.

Where are you? I no longer hear your voice,

your clear blue eyes, your soft pink skin, recedes

into a freezing fog denser than ice,

and all my tears dissolve as your vision fades;

you, like the road, distant as ash and embers

from the living heat and glow of our yog's true flame,

on this new road with neither patrin nor cambers

we see no mountain of hope we still may climb,

only a crumbling pathway pocked with holes,

not the alluring tracks of hills and dales


oh, our sad freedom, flickering and lost

like a dowsed beacon from a far-off land

and we, lovers in spite of all, are cast

into the cold and dark; their laws rescind

all natural kindness, all that smells or sounds

of joy, of laughter, love; frozen to blocks

of giant ice statues, they close up the wounds

of pain or happiness, cut down with their axe

all things that make us human, make us smile,

touch each other tenderly, shed tears, show care

to others - all dismissed, the world made small

into a prison camp or abattoir,

and our forsaken hearts can only flutter

defiantly, before at last we shatter

Ne atchin-tan (No resting place)

A pilgrim through this weary world, no rest

As on and up forever on my way

I search for peace.

The east wind chills my breast,

And the hot sun burns me by day:

There's no escape.

The pounding hounding wind

That lashes me

Will never let my footsteps flee

To solid ground where I might ease my pain.

The stones around say 'bread,'

The stagnant pools

Say only I shall be uncomforted,

And I may drink only their brackish water.

Here, where the road itself is lost from view,

I wait in vain to bid this grief adieu.

Fighting my way through bitter rain and wind

I seek the welcome needfire, yet I find

Only the death of all my youthful dreams,

The failure of my thousand dilli schemes,

The loss of all that made my life worthwhile,

The stark beginning of my endless exile

From joy and mirth and love and all that brings

A sense of meaning to the dullest things,

All gone forever, fled from my poor presence,

A final end to all my foolish pleasance.

Now I am leaving, down this stony road

To seek forgiveness from divvel above;

I have often prayed for him to lift my load,

Asked him to heal me with his boundless love.

Into the dark desert of life I wander,

Where the fine flowers of earth are withered quite;

Upon my own dark destiny I ponder,

And wonder how I came to lose the light.

Speak not to me of either love or grief;

I know too well how I have strayed, and now

Can only linger like some bas-relief

Perched cold and lonely on this distant prow

Of stricken rock on which no flowers grow,

And from whose side no living waters flow.

I have been lover, poet, wife and mother;

I have created and I have destroyed.

All is oppression now, as all thing smother

My weary spirit in this endless void.

The sun, the rain, the winds, the thrashing hail

All batter me and seek to crush my soul.

O, I shall fight them all, although I fail

It shall be only as the mare who brings her foal

Harshly to birth, only to see it falter,

And watch the cold death of her son or daughter.

When this last quest is done, my journey ended

And no more sorrow or regret

For those long loved or simply befriended:

All these I shall forget

Until I stand in purity beside

My children dancing, I once more a bride.

Only blank sky above me as I walk

And the harsh stony ground beneath my feet,

And the eternal silence as I talk

To myself only; none is here to greet,

Nor to be parted from in this sour land,

None meets me here upon this barren sand.

In this eternal winter where earth's bones

Lie stripped and broken, I recall once more

The innocence I knew, the haunting tones

Of songs now half-forgotten; on the shore,

Wrecked by the fists of a vast tsunami wave,

I seek to understand my living grave.

Here, where the world is cold and still,

I wait in vain for any voice to call

And I still dumb to speech until

I find the way to climb this endless wall.

Although in time and space we are together

Only I suffer this inclement weather

Of a barren heart that cannot find its way

Beyond the spirits of the void that prey

On my young heart. In my mind's eye I see

The day we met, and our love came to be.

You sit alone in an empty house

While I must wander over this harsh land;

Though I am quiet as a mouse

I hear your beating heart in this dead sand.

We have arrived and parted at this last

Frontier of life; till all my life is passed,

I'll keep the memories of fruits and flowers,

Of birds and animals, the pleasant hours

We dallied in our vain pretence at joy:

I love my little girl and boy.

Over the barren sands my footsteps trace

Their weary way. A swirling mist then blows,

Scattering sand into my blinded face,

And adding to my woes.

When the mist clears at last, I see the mountain

Loom large before me. Here my goal must lie;

If I should drink from its eternal fountains,

Or else go mad or die.

I do not know what fate will send,

Nor if the mountain be a foe or friend,

I only know

I must go onwards, brave the cloak of snow

Until perhaps I'll scale your lofty peak,

And gaze upon a land no longer bleak.

The wind is suddenly still,

And the sky empty of all moving things;

I, who have had my fill

Of all the miseries life brings,

Climb slowly upwards till I reach the top,

And finally, suddenly, stop.

Here must I spend the night,

And pray that I have waked enough in the light

For the divvel above to grant me grace,

And let me live and leave this sacred place,

And grant me power

To drink the dew from every mountain flower,

And if I live till dawn

Not to be lilli or a thing of scorn,

But charged with the eternal mountain's peace,

And may my earthly pain find just release.


I am
a brown-skinned girl
adrift in a world of whiteness
you just don't get
brown chalk or brown cream
only chocolate sauce
or brown sugar
your skin is pale as the snow
starched as white sheets
drained of all colour
my blood fuses
into trees and flowers
the earth my playground
rather than the clinical corridors
of your doctor's waiting room
the rhythm of coffee
the beat of samba and mamba
throbs within me
my feet dance
to chalga and manele and bhangra
while at your liveliest you thrash
to heavy metal
the wings of swallows
trumpet our yearning for freedom
in the cold indifferent air
the music of Redzepova or Djansever
flutters with equal majesty
the arcing ache of liberation
from all this world's deadness
I am a bronze statue
cast unwillingly into an art gallery
as a curiosity of a vanished history
for all your jailer's tricks
I live and move
my limbs and my whole body
more passionately alive than you can know
I stand for hope
for a world of colour
and the beauty and freedom of nature
lost in your endless tunnels
building your structures of concrete and steel
what do you bring us except your despair?

For my uncle

when I was still a growing girl, my bones

hardening slowly under the wind and rain,

my uncle showed me how to pen the patrin,

tie knots, carve wood, catch fish, catch and skin rabbits,

prepare a tan, make ready a blazing yog,

rocka the poggerdi jib, know the leis-prala,

be always still and quiet in the woods,

to use a chib with either of my hands

  my bright eyes followed where he loved to lead:

thanks to his teaching, equally at home

in light or dark, able to be prepared

for all the unexpected things life throws at us,

grow strong and tall, able to hold my own

and fight my way against the racist thugs,

condemning me for my brown skin, my Roma blood,

but never to abuse my strength and power;

instead, protect the innocent and weak,

and, above all, follow the brothers' ways

all of my life, however short my days


let us always speak:
why should our voice be mute?
let our heads be proud:
why should we bow before the offered yoke?
let our fists be strong:
why should we not strike back at our oppressors?
let our language roll
in all its sonorous beauty
to wake the dead world
from its prosaic, Prozac-induced
denial of life, of freedom

above all, let us be
strong, proud and resolute,
always defiant,
waving the flag of freedom aloft for ever

A daughter of the Roma

I am a daughter of India,
born under her scorching sun,
lashed, enslaved, tortured and raped
by the gauji lords who sought to bend us to their will,
and we were scattered, fled into exile,
running from the blows yet fighting back,
and in spite of vultures circling above
hoping to devour the carcasses of our people
we refused to die
no, we endured; nothing more, but then
when tossed into the cauldron of genocide
that we survived at all is surely something
out of our blood we built
a nation without a home,
a people with the most infinite patience,
and for over a thousand years we have withstood
hunger, cold, blazing sun,
the pitiless whips of taskmasters,
the cold damp cells of prisons,
even the ever-open maw
of the devouring furnaces,
and we have survived
the lies they tell about us,
and out of our spilt blood
a mighty river has formed
the newest ocean of the world
cruise liners, dredgers, cargo ships,
sail through our turbulent waters,
knowing that the solid foundation of our blood
will permit safe passage
out of our torrid waters
golden fish swim to a welcoming shore,
and the teeth of pitiless power
have been extracted skilfully,
so that now our music resounds
not, as of old, in brigaki djilia
but in full-throated operas of joy

Why we still fight against extinction

where shall we go, when every gate is barred,

each stopping place off limits, every door

closed in our face, each school saying our kids

are trouble, need to be excluded in

'the best interests of the other children?' How

can we, denied redress even in law,

regard ourselves as valued citizens

of our own country? If you play the game,

become a settled kennisher, work for the glox

rather than (as is our way) work for yourself,

perhaps they'll slowly start to leave you alone,

hoping in time you'll dwindle into just another

work slave sheep, stuck in a neighbourhood,

and in time by some mystical process of photosynthesis

you'll breathe the poisonous oxygen of freedom

out of your lungs, inhaling in its stead

the healthy carbon dioxide of conventionality,

subservience, conformity, dependency

on the rey baro for every aspect of your life

and you'll be nuzzled into soft extinction

like a pet being put to sleep by a vet.

  we know the only thing that really matters

in our life of struggle is inner and outer freedom;

if we're not free, we're nothing:

our freedom defines us

and when it’s gone, we’re dead

Past, present and no future

once the flickering flame of our people

was charred to blistered ash,

in the dark cathedral of the chapel

dedicated to hate, the lush

profusion of time, effort and even skill

devoted to killing, this fine-honed tool

for slaughter. For what purpose? We were no threat:

true, they feared our freedom, yet

how were our deaths of any benefit?

  now, not even distant memories,

the dead dugs of unsucked mammaries

no living baby ever came to be nourished by,

and all the mound of our dead ignored; our coy

exclusion even on Holocaust Day,

as the permitted victims shed their tears -

rightfully, righteously so - yet all these years

we remain outsiders even at our funeral pyres,

rancid contempt, at best patronising almost sneers

are granted us. Our tents, our caravans

moved on forever, and our atchin-tans

forbidden to us. Exiled still

because we will not bow to their stern will,

forever outside we are driven down,

unwelcome both in country and in town.

  where shall we go when all the roads are shut,

and every blade of grass, each tree, is felled,

with only concrete, tarmac, glass, a glut

of all unnatural things, being revealed?

Say it out loud, I’m Roma and I’m proud

gyppo slut and pikey whore:

only one thing you're good for!

  and if you try to jaul the drom

the gavers move you on and on

just because you're only a Rom

and you don't have rights so just begone!

  or if they see you round the place

with your dusky skin and dark brown face

they shout 'watch out, a gyppo's here!'

and they all run away in fear

  so what the hell can a rawni do?

damned to hell in a toxic brew

of prejudice served hot and cold,

chased from farm and foro and fold

  don't hawk your kushto-fiz round here!

we don't want none of your dodgy gear,

so do a runner in a right rush

or you'll be up before the bistering mush

  they might no longer bin us in ovens

but they still call us crooks and slovens;

all on account of our Roma rat

we get called this and we get called that

  and if we're lucky we'll stay out of stir

but hear words with every kind of slur

and told to move on from our atchin tan

just because the baro rey can

  oh, it's a trial and it's a worry

and makes us too often in a hurry

to stay away from the gorgia folk

because they want us to live under their yoke

  but freedom's always what we crave;

what sane girl wants to be a slave?

we jaul the drom, walk the way of the brothers,

just like our fathers and our mothers

On the Road

The dark-skinned dreamers

move placidly along the road,

noting the signs left for them to discover

by earlier brothers travelling this route

  we brush away

the dust we passed, not letting it settle,

nor allowing the swift whip cuts of the wind and rain

to discourage us. Now the warm sunlight heals us,

summer sweetness begins to stir in the air,

and we follow the path, sure-footed as barges on canals

though the way is harder for strangers

  in the town lying ahead

fears of our coming arrival already disturbs

the indolent shoulder of dwellers within convention,

and as they drink deep

from the poisoned well of prejudice

we expect that daylight

will bring the arrival of officials

ordering us to move on, be out of their sight

  behind us the dark wood

no longer shadows and protects us;

the eye of the moon

glances its silvery caring upon our forms.

When the day arrives

we shall follow the glow of sunlight,

the sweaty presence of people,

their pockets jingling with coins,

wallets and purses bristling with banknotes

  they are not our enemies,

it is not their fault that lies and fears

consume them at the mention of our name.

Like flints we have been chipped and formed

in the struggle of life;

like frost we have grown a hard outer shell

to protect us from the pain

our naturally open hearts are always prone to

  we are dreamers, lost between two worlds,

preferring the green spaces and open roads

to the tunnels and the bricked-up forts

others prefer to live in. We are free;

the earth and sky will shelter and protect us

in all our journeying


Our parched lips quench themselves
at water holes, streams, ponds; our feet move on
across the dusty roads, through the green woods,
in a perpetual motion that defines us
who neither sow nor reap,
yet through our skills and wits
perform services, trade things
for all that's needful:
food, water,
our clothes fashioned out of our art,
our homes kept warm with fire we collect
and we, though poor, are not starved,
nor broken by our toil and travels;
through the dark wood we journey
towards the promise of light
once we tasted only sweetness,
then our tongues drank bitter gall;
today is mostly sweet,
within this sceptred isle, floating in an ocean,
we move sure-footedly towards the expectation
that our flight will end
with the arrival of a star
the veins stand out upon our flesh
where they shrivelled to the faintest bone;
our eyes, once crouching in darkness, cowering away
from the fear of death, now no longer frozen
in the unexpected fear that gripped them once;
our pain, that fluttered like an arpeggio
played on our favoured fiddles, muted now
as our so nearly lost chords
no longer cry out for deliverance
but simply weep
out of the ashes of our murdered past,
with the gate of fear safely locked behind,
with blood moonlight, nightmares plaguing us
at least we now have emerged out of the shadows
into a pallid light with a tinge of hope

Djelem, djelem

When I hear djelem, djelem sung
I feel alive, blooming like a flower
warmed by the sun,
my lips taste sweet as if I'd kissed
our people's flag
and djelem, djelem
pulses through me
like a thousand orgasms,
and all my people,
Cale, Kalderash, Lovara, Vlach,
Roma, Sinti, posh-rats, diddakai,
walk hand in hand and side by side
our struggle for freedom and justice
will never die,
we will fight on till the gadje are enlightened,
our labours of love,
bringing a shared illumination
to everyone
let the light of our love
shine out from all the people of the world
and the oceans of course sing in their seaspray
'djelem, djelem'

My identity

who am I,


with my long dark hair,

my tall, powerful body,

my aching eyes?

  I am Roma,

a toiler in the fields,

a servant to the ones

for whom  we labour to make

their unholy bestipen,

the chains we wear our only gemstones,

the whip of the glox all that makes us know

we still exist

  out of our servitude

we fashioned our brigaki djilia,

our gypsy blues,

our spirituals

  our names abandoned,

whispered only in secret,

answering to our gauji handles

  I am Linda:

but I also have a Roma name

that is my true self,

my real identity

  our lives of unremembered sweat,

our toil and pain too long unrecognised,

lost in the dustbin

while others walk in the light,

rightly recount their sorrows,

but never spare a word or thought for us

  we also served and suffered,

we also were enslaved;

so let our song be told:

our backs still bear the scars of countless whippings,

our ankles ache with the weight of manacles,

so let our voice be heard

  I am Linda:

I have been Linda all my life;

I married as Linda, 

to most of the world and even most my friends

I am Linda

  yet I am not only Linda:

my Roma name is my true self,

my real identity


Cast out of burnished bronze,

my dark Indian skin,

my image hammered in love

as my parents brought me to birth

  out of a momentary climax

the weight of me gathered and grew

inside miri dai for nine long months

  until with a final yell of pain

she voided me,

a waterspout flung out of herself

onto the dry beach

of a straw bed

  my lips were heavy with salt

and my head shone red with blood

  from my dark mother's womb

I left the cave,

drank the milk of her breasts

till I grew strong

  though British born and bred

I am an alien even to myself,

a creature suspended between two worlds,

belonging truly to neither

  a mongrel, an abomination of nature,

a miscegenated freak

raging at the dark gorger world

yet caught perpetually within its snares

  I walk alone,

my inner hunger never satisfied,

my thirst for simple acceptance

of who and what I am

is never slaked

  because my roots spread out in two directions -

white Irish father, brown-skinned Roma mother -

my inner growth perpetually remains

stunted as a pollarded tree

and, like an unwatered plant,

I slowly perish

in this alien soil everywhere

The Roma

if all the tears of my people

flowed together at once

the land and rivers would all taste of salt,

mountains would be salt pillars,

and all herbs and fruits and vegetables

would taste of bitterness

  if all the laughter of my people

rang out together at once

there would be perpetual sunshine,

barren rocks be fertile with new life

and freedom everywhere

  my people,

despised as wanderers,

throughout thousands of years of history,

turned into cartoon villains,

a name to frighten children with:

'watch out, the gypsies will kidnap you!'

  but we

survive our rejection,

even survived the monsters of the death-camps,

and we shall last for ever,

our quest for perpetual motion

keeping us one step ahead

of our tormentors

  we see, hear, touch and feel

the world around,

more vividly, more intensely,

and in our hearts

we carry the weight of history

  our mellow, sonorous language

still lives, still sings its golden words

in city, town and village

  our dream of freedom

only we

can bring about

Wishing for our people’s freedom

I wish I knew how it felt to be respected,

I wish I didn't hang my head in shame,

apologise for not being disinfected

in every part of me; oh, I'm to blame,

that's what they tell me all the lonesome day:

that's what you get for living the Roma way

  I only want to share the joy I feel

in all the world around, the birds, the flowers,

animals, trees: but when I talk, they reel

away from me like I was bringing showers

to rain on their parade; up go the bars

of steel that stand between us like fresh scars

  I only wish you knew what it was like

to be me; oh, I'm sure that if you knew

you wouldn't tell me just to take a hike

but look upon me with a different view,

and you and I most surely would agree

it's both our rights to go on living free

  I wish that I could live the way I need,

give all I am; but it seems that the racial

divide between us just make you recede,

and all your feelings grow totally glacial,

if only I had time enough to show

you might even come to love me so

  now I only wish I was a swallow,

away from all my life of sad constriction,

able to soar and fly out of this hollow

malignant, hostile, frightening jurisdiction,

I'd fly above the blue clouds in the sky

and in that moment of freedom gladly die

I am Roma

From the top
of my head
to the milk
in my tits
all gone now,
from my cunt
my arse
you know
I’m one 
big woman!
Big body,
big head,
big mouth,
big heart!
but I remember
when I gave birth
my hard labour
out of my loving cunt
came my little one
out of the arse of our earth
come the big bosses
come the judges
our people
are stinking meat to them
to them our girls
are dirty whores
no goodness inside them
they hold
the whip hand
we are nothing to them
this is an evil place
with evil men
where no one shows kindness,
the bridle
the whip
much work
no good if I ask
our overseer
to do good;
he only harms us,
and so my mouth
says nothing.
For our daily bread
I must work,
my weary arse
now skin and bone
if I had seen
in our big land
so far away now,
or had
the wisdom
to see the trouble to come
I’d run away,
find my Romani families,
and I would have sung
when I found them;
and she,
my beautiful daughter,
now enslaved, 
a free girl
but I was taken away
across the sea, 
sent to another country
I don’t understand
my voice
now only 
sings sad songs
I accuse 
the jailer;
who has put his drunken hands
on my tits,
on my cunt,
and he takes
the treasure,
the life
goes from me
when his prick
inside my cunt
committed robbery
now I am dishonoured,
my body bleeding;
I need to run
but I can’t. 
Don’t touch me there!
I said,
but he showed me no mercy;
goodbye, my gypsyness:
now I am dirty, just a whore.
my breasts turned to stone.
but for the sake of my child
I must work,
my cunt is his now.
our blood is black,
but we are called
red legs,
we survive
afraid, ashamed,
I beg 
God, forgive me:
no more
heard my prayer,
and set me free,
my transportation over
Another country,
another time,
now I am free,
can walk the road,
live in the woods,
my sour pain
now turned to sweetness,
now I am safe,
my heart
sings in joy,
I want to  

tell the whole world
how happy I am
From my sadness
joy again,
this country,
that sold me 
into slavery,
now sets me free!
out of hell,
into the woods, the long road,
now travelling with me,
my beautiful little girl,
together again,
home again,
happy again
to every country upon
this earth of ours,
nations and tribes,
brothers and sisters,
rich, poor,
far away, lost
to my eyes
but never
from my loving heart,
here and now I speak to you,
out of my life,
out of my pain,
out of the pain of my people,
out of the pain of all the people
who live on our earth,
I will speak to you now
see, I am a keyhole
through which it is possible
to see wisdom
if you only look
I am drowning
in the middle of my people
and all their sorrows,
bearing, showing my wounds
like scars of honour
hear my songs,
hear my words of wisdom,
let my pain touch you,
bring together all
my tears, 
my breaking heart,
into your hearts,
and make my pain,
make the sorrow of my people
your pain,
your sorrow,
but we survive,
living the old ways of our people,
but our poverty
meant there were times
when we stole or whored,
and the magistrate
said we must be
sent across
the sea
to Botany Bay,
a foreign land,
where we knew no one
we watched
the ship’s sails
bring us to
our new land
  our eyes looked down
on the earth of our new land,
and out of them tears flowed
their land
is hot as a frying pan,
hot as an oven,
very little rain
seven years,
long years,
our return from transportation.
With much joy
we walked our native land again 
an evil land,
an evil time,
more evil than those we’d known before.
No friend to Nazis, our people; 
if they conquer the world
it means our death.
this is the work
of the enemies of our people:
they destroy us,
like winds thundering,
that like kicking horses
ride along and across us,
and before them ride
the four horsemen of the apocalypse,
their only gifts coffins
and cemeteries
the sad cries
the dirges,
already echoing
across the earth:
don’t talk so loudly;
every road
is now full of death
the sorrow making haste
across hill, forest and valley,
washing the stony ground
with much blood;
now there is no room
to dig enough graves,
no wood to make
so many coffins
it’s possible
all of our people
will die;
they say
us gypsies
are dirty people,
only born to die
In Auschwitz
we are undone,
but not like 
the prisons
we’ve known before.
This is no prison:
here we live
in an academy of death
until we learn
even if we weep
our tears
are nothing to them;
we are only born to die
our bones,
our flesh,
our hair,
the milk of our women’s breasts
all that made us human,
gone, destroyed, departed.
it isn’t possible
for life to continue here;
the stench of death
poisons the air,
just as our blood and bones
poison the earth
name of shame,
‘work makes you free,’
the words written above
this house of death
we who grew
in the pure air of freedom,
the pure earth beneath
our feet so full of life,
our voices laughing;
now deeply ended,
gone, Oh God!
our lives now
forever changed,
only sad songs
come out of our voices now
tomorrow’s dirt and stench,
it stinks that we even came out alive
from that house of death,
the death-fires, the poisoned earth,
yet here we are
it is impossible ever
for forgiveness, to give
the hand of our people
in friendship,
to understand
why so much evil
was done at that time;
not because of cursed Germans,
but Germans with minds
destroyed through devilish lies
but life continues,
it was our luck to live,
now our words, our songs,
will only be lights in darkness,
love, not warfare,
our path to new life.
I believe and hope
tomorrow will be better
than today

The Romani way is freedom

we always chose freedom

wandering the roads

not having much

our caravans our homes

  like the swallow

who adorns the sky

with endless flight

 we Roma

carry the fire of freedom

etched into our hearts

The patrin pens the drom:

In the woods

the patrin rockered

'ne atchin tan akai'

so we moved on

 Amaro yekhipe (Our Unity)

Miri abiav

Tu zhamutro

Mande shebari

Miri cheiz tu dikk

 Our wedding

You my bridegroom

I your bride

You see my dowry

Our Lady of Romanistan

Sara is our saint;

we see her everywhere,

in the knotted kerchiefs around the heads

of our women toiling in the fields,

in the dusky skins we wear on our faces

like Halloween masks,

in the rich warm blood flowing through our veins,

in the baskets of herbs and fruits we carry,

in the burnished copper of our cooking pots

we see always her shining face

  she is our protector:

when we find ourselves

gazing defiantly at the walls

of our prison cells

her face glows back at us,

reflecting hope

  you fly above the land,

you cross the oceans,

bringing comfort and salvation

  I have seen you

climbing mountains, fording rivers,

foraging for food that we may eat

  you live in the glens of Scotland,

in the mahalas of Romania,

dressed in your bright finery

glittering gold

in the markets of Spain

  I have watched you

dancing the dance of life,

singing the brigaki djilia

as you shared all

our pain and rapture

  you, mother, daughter, sister,

wise grandmother and aunt,

you, housewife, seller of goods,

maker of pegs, baskets and trinkets

  your hands pluck fruit and herbs for food,

gather fish to put upon the fire;

your breasts nourish us with their pure milk

as our own mothers feed our children

  you weep and laugh with us;

you play our violins and our guitars

in harmony with our sweet music

  whatever language we speak

you talk in the same tongue:

Romanes, English, French,

Spanish, Russian, German,

Czech, Romanian, Turkish;

your voice reaches us all

  you are always with us:

even in our darkest hour

when our souls evaporated out of the ovens of Auschwitz

you were there too

  we can travel far:

to Appleby, to Sulukule,

Asia, Africa, Europe, even America

and you are always with us

  your darkness is the sun that lights the sky

for us your dusky children;

your outstretched hands

bring only love and hope

to us your people

  you fill the world:

wherever I am you are with me too,

to guide and to protect your sons and daughters,

always caring for our welfare

  it is true you have an earthly shrine

in France, and every year

thousands of us visit to honour you,

yet you are traced in the brows and hearts

of every Rom who dwells upon this globe,

and in due reverence we anoint your dusky feet

with the salt spray of our loving tears

Opre Roma! (Roma arise!)Bottom of Form
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