Excerpt for The Gypsy Road by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Gypsy Road

Linda Marshall

© Linda Marshall 26th September 2017

‘Go where the gypsies go,

Know what the gypsies know,

Follow the gypsy road

Maybe to the sea’ (Shusha)


The myth of gypsies


The Roma challenge to the gorger world

The Roma invasion of Britain

Past, Present and No Future

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

My heritage


Jakob’s Ladder

The Runaway Bride

Miri abiav (My wedding)

The gypsy girl’s song


Our Pilgrimage

The Romani Way is Freedom

The myth of gypsies

according to the established myths about us

we are either (depending on how brainwashed you are)

romantic anachronisms dressed in old-fashioned gear

and rolling around the world in hand-painted vardos

speaking in tongues no one can understand

and if you ask someone to name a gypsy

at best they'll come up with Django Reinhardt

  or (if you believe the tabloid press and media)

we're a bunch of drunken thieves

baby snatchers

always brawling and fighting

lock your doors and lock away your children:

the gypsies are in town!

  and even when the poets (who should know better)

write about us what do we get to read?

Keats in 'Meg Merillees' painted us as sultry dusky beauties

Anne Beresford portrayed us some kind of 'greens'

  so at best we're like some ancient cave art

discovered and patronised by some middle-class critic

who wants to adopt us as his pet craze

  at worst we fear for our lives and safety

with hatred, violence and prejudice

following us everywhere


You gypsies always have to be different;

face it, whatever you might try to be

you're always going to be different.

It's your fault, of course.

  you could be a dangerous bad boy

all the women swoon over

but never marry;

they can't hack your freedom

  you could be a romantic anachronism,

your colourful dicklo making you look

like a bandido fighting an endless battle

but always losing

  you could be a rich Roma,

make it on the gauji scene like Django,

surrounded by your cult of adoring groupies

and selling your soul for bestipen

you could fix cars,

scrub floors, wait tables,

work in a bar:

but nobody wants a gypsy like that

  you gypsies always want to be different - 

crazy, right? I mean,

just being a gypsy makes you different

 so what to do?

go to uni and get a degree,

learning English and history

but knowing none of your own language and past

  you gypsies always have to be different - 

dressing that way, dangling your ear-rings

with chunky bling, minding your own business

  then come the gavers

and either cart you off into stir

or move you on.

  you gypsies always want to be different,

not seeing just being what you are

always makes you different.

It's all your fault, of course

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

The Roma challenge to the gorger world

if we were given power and trust like you
you'd be amazed to see what we can do;
Jacks, Jills, of all trades: masters of a lot,
given the chance we'd show you what we've got!
  maybe you know it too within your heart,
and that's why you always try to stay apart
from the likes of us, in case we show you up:
much safer to pretend we'd sell you a pup
  so without further beating about the bush
I'm going to give it to you straight, old mush:
we're just as good as what you think you are,
with equal rights to travel near and far
  all our demands are easy: treat us right,
give us the same shake that you give the white
and black and brown; fairness is all we ask,
not such a rocket science task!

The Roma invasion of Britain

we're on our way -
at least that's what the 'Daily Mail' writers say -
in an invading army to take over
the NHS, Jobcentre Plus, and cover
old England's green and pleasant lands
with our dirty thieving gypsy hands!
yeah, right!
Our weapons are the clothes upon our back,
the skills we've learned, the utter lack
of money, weapons, readiness to fight
and so again the racist slurs are hurled
at a few thousand Rom who dare
to lift themselves out of the poverty where
they live, and try to move in a new world
where at least they won't be living in shanty towns,
busted by cops whenever they show their face,
told they're scum just because of their race
and have to put up with the sneers and frowns
of all the settled folk who hate our ways.
my wanderlust burns deep within my soul,
and yet I have to settle mostly; days
run into weeks and months, but I feel whole
when I'm away and travelling, one with nature,
who doesn't look on me as a hateful creature
deserving all the abuse we Roma get
I've known blacks say the way we're treated here
is worse than anything they've known themselves
and yet

Britain is paradise for us if you compare
the way the Eastern Europeans shelve
the gypsy holocaust, call us thieves, scum,
kidnappers of children: in their eyes the likes of me
are nothing but a racially inferior bum
and no Roma ever deserves to be free
or even (in their ideal world) to be
we are what we are; our gypsy blood
gives licence to some folk to trample us in the mud,
and because we wear a dusky skin
we must be full of wickedness and sin
yeah, right:
our tawny skins cast us to endless night;
in your own false and prejudiced belief
each one of us is whore, kidnapper, thief
well, as we know, to the eternal shame
of all compassionate folk, the victim's always to blame

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:

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.

true, they feared our freedom, yet

  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

My heritage

my name
is not my name,
or at least, not my only name
only the name
by which I go
to the outside world
so it is
I am Linda
(to gorger friends, Lin)
but a few know
my secret name,
my Roma name
in names lies power,
so it is that only
those I love and trust
know my true name
I dance in woods
beneath a moonlit sky,
my hot dark blood
cooled only by the wind
and on such nights
I float away
upon my breath
becoming one
with my lost people
across the world
for a fleeting moment
Romanistan lives within me
I come from the ashes
out of the darkness of history,
I spring away like a cat
from the lash of oppression,
refusing any longer to be cowed
into hating myself,
despising what I am,
dirty gypsy,
thieving scum,
I will no longer feel
contempt for myself
though all history
tells me I am nothing,
tells me my people are nothing,
tells me we do not matter,
fit only to be killed,
enslaved, or at best
"assimilated" into nothingness,
neutered and silenced
we have as much right
as any other humans
to be proud, to celebrate
our history,
our culture,
our rich language,
our laws and customs,
our differences
Roma like blacks say
we here to stay!


after a thousand years of oppression

let our voice be heard

  let our heads no longer cower in shame

but boldly stare at the world in pride

  beaten, whipped, enslaved:

let us raise our fists of power

  lied to for too long

let our truth be heard

  once ashamed of our dark skin,

let us admire ourselves in the mirror,

calling ourselves beautiful

  let us walk in freedom at last,

let us rise up and be ourselves.

  opre Roma!

Jakob’s Ladder

you built yourself a ladder of aliases
out of a single name;
Jakob you were in Central Europe,
Iago among the hills of Snowdon,
Giacomo in the Italian landscape,
Diego when you walked in Spain,
Jaime among the Basques,
Jimmy in England
  the lie of you began early:
the only survivor among your family
of the death camp at Auschwitz, you travelled
and though most of us Roma have
a gorger and a gypsy name
with you, identity switch
was your budjo
yet it was not for gain,
nor any wish to trick the gorger world
out of sheer malice or greed,
but, violated by death as a child,
somehow an inner sense of selfhood
never fully formed inside you
in Spain and the Basque country
you strove mightily against Franco,
a warrior for ETA
I, as a child,
listened to your poems and your music,
teaching me the ways of the brothers,
teaching me my language and heritage
you died too young:
I was only 22 years old
when you passed over.
at the funeral I said my prayers
in English and Romanes
and every year I pay a visit
to your grave, to honour and remember you
you loved the sun
but also the snow;
we walked together among mountains
climbing both physical and spiritual space
thanks to you
I still follow the law of the brothers
as best as I can in our gadje world;
thanks to you
I celebrate the life of our people
and fight for their rights
against those who hate and persecute us
miri nano, me cam tu!
The Runaway Bride

it's our tradition 

that when we get married

we elope;

  only then

do we tell our parents

  so it was

we went to the registry office

and made our solemn vows

  then we went back

and told our parents


the day itself was quiet

 all the fireworks

 came later!

  his family 

were incandescent with rage,

told him he'd married beneath himself,

said 'how can you marry a dirty gypsy?

can't you see she's just trash?

she only wants you for your money,

she's a promiscuous whore,'

  and even though 

we've been married seventeen years now,

had three children,

his mum still always leaves my name

off the Christmas card

she sends to the family

Miri abiav (My wedding)

Romani romni, ruv i ruvvel,
preterai, baxtalo chai,
avra, me kam, me barearav,
me dav pakiv, me gilabav,
o d'ives me mange bashavav,
kak komi mukherimungeri: 
lovina, mol, pliashka,
ne komi preterai, me matchka,
miri kushti zhamutro,
mande tacho,
me joovi, ruvvel!
miri kis kish,
miri posoti si
o bov cam!
ne ruv, me tuv,
me kas, me pi!
  miri cheiz ne ruppeni, 
kak sonnekaj,
i leste dat i dai
rocka bushalo lavi,
lasa melalo, ne darro,
lasa bori lubbeni,
lasa uzho, ne wuzho,
mandi mange lasa, o warfedo inox,
jaul avree, jaul o pawni,
jaul avree, bi-latsho rawni!
  Dovo's a huckaben:
dordi, dordi, miri phen!
coaver narki lavi ne bushalo
miri guli abiav.
  Tu rocka mande:
odjus tawni, rinkeni rawni,
me cam tu!

Amaro kam,
amaro yekhipe,
miri kam opréy leste,
me rocker rom, lom, dom, glox,
i mandi's vast leste sonnekai
cam's tato yog akai!
Mishto o d'ives varekai!

My wedding

Gypsy woman, wolf and wife,
wildcat, happy girl,
yes, I love, I honour,
I obey, I sing,
today I want to play the violin,
no more tea:
beer, wine, brandy,
no more wildcat, I'm a pussycat now,
my good bridegroom,
I'm true,
I'm a woman, a wife,
my purse of silk, 
my pouch inside my skirt,
an oven of love!
No tears, I smoke,
I eat, I drink!
  My dowry wasn't silver,
nor gold;
and his Mum and Dad
speak sour words,
she is dirty, no proper dowry,
she's a big whore,
she's impure, not pure,
I want her, the worthless thing,
to go away, go over the sea,
go away, you bad girl!
  That's a lie:
dear, dear, my sister!
These evil words won't sour
the sweetness of my wedding day
  You say to me:
beautiful brown-skinned woman, beautiful gypsy girl,
I love you!
  Our love,
our unity,
my love for him,
I say husband, husband, husband, boss,
and on my finger the gold of his love

burns me with his warmth.
My day is happy all around!

The gypsy girl’s song

Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

  The house in which I stayed was welcoming,

The shiny windows gleamed at me in friendship,

The door opened eagerly at my entrance,

The table was set with food and drink

And the hosts greeted me warmly.

Even the son of the house

Kissed me and offered me gifts.

But when he asked me to stay

I sang this song::

  Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

  A gypsy girl am I, loving the long roads

Stretching out into infinity,

The mountains, valleys, woods and streams,

And walking in freedom, the fresh air

Moistening my cheeks, kissing the curls of my hair

And calling me ever onwards, forwards,

To who knows where, knowing only

The endless call of the road and the faraway places

In which each sunrise brings us a new story

  Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

  When the sun lifts its head above the cloak of night

And the first rays strike the cold dark earth

That has been my bed

I sense the wanderlust within me stir,

Hear the call of the road’s harsh music

And my heart dances,

Wild with the passion of freedom,

Scouring the world around me

For another vision to remember at night

  Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

  The shade of a rinkeny boy drifts into my dreams

As I lie peaceful in the forest on a bed of bracken,

Each night he comes to me and kisses me

And asks me if I love him.

He wears a bright-coloured diklo,

And a churi stashed in his belt.

Ah, the glint of his eyes

That flash like a yog

And the peach of his ardent lips!

  Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

  For him I have given up

My necklace of sonnakai,

My bracelet of ruppeny,

My ring that sparkles like cheiz.

Kasko san? So he pooches me,

And I answer him so,

Mande tiri’s, ale

Kathal, miri dom;

Me cam tu!

  Alone in the forests I dream,

And as I sing my song in the dark woods

The leaves and branches of the trees

Rustle in answer

Author notes

[Used a few Romanes words in this poem; here’s the translation.

‘Rinkeny’ means pretty or handsome; ‘diklo’ is the neckerchief the Roma often wear; ‘churi’ means knife; ‘yog’ is fire; ‘sonnakai’ is gold; ‘ruppeny’ silver; ‘cheiz’ means stars; ‘kasko san?’ means ‘whose are you?’; ‘pooch’ is to ask; ‘mande tiri’s, ale kathal, miri dom’ means ‘I’m yours, but go gently, my lord.’ ‘Me cam tu’ means ‘I love you’]


Your one eye shines bright sunlight on the earth,

More fiery passion spilling out of you

In a fountain of tears from the moment of your birth;

Each word you sing is powerful and true

You are a queen, though throneless as you are,

A queen of song, a brilliant shooting star,

Your voice the sceptre and the diademed crown

Through which you rule; to you all must bow down

You tune your voice to everything that lives,

Your trembling breath inspires us to trust

The tone of you, a flute that always gives

Sorrow and joy, both shining among earth’s rust

A tiny girl, out of your slender breast

Pours magic, and our ears become caressed

By your wild, witchy mystery, till healed

By that soaring voice, each listener must yield

Out of your heart, out of your cries and tears,

Ashes of memories from a thousand years,

You throw your voice into immortal notes

As if they issued from bird’s throats

You sing of joy and sorrow, wake delight

In the hearts of those shuttered in endless night,

Can make the coldest-hearted shed a tear

When you appear

Music is a language that can span

All nations, colours, creeds, woman and man;

Al weathers meet in you, sun, rain, wind, snow,

Your single voice an oratorio

All we imagine real soon disappears

As your pure voice pours in our aching ears

The honey of the music, freed of lies,

Not needing artifice or cheap disguise

The lark ascends, the swallow flies through air

In the cloud’s freedom that with us you share;

The windy breeze, the sunshine you bring dispel

The misery of earth’s living, unloving hell

From God above you got your gift of song,

Bring down heaven to earth, to right the wrong,

Touching us with triumphant songs of light

To melt the frost of cold eternal night

Our Pilgrimage

the eyes of those settled upon the earth

gaze on us, scornful. Beng gave us our birth,

so they surmise. We come, but cannot stay,

forever ordered to be on our way,

we are despised as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

without a roof, like snails we must carry

our home upon our back, and may not tarry,

unless like townies we 'assimilate,'

into a neutral paste. If not, our fate

to be despised as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

there are far fewer woods than once before,

even upon the forests they close the door,

to sleep beneath the stars, on the good ground,

restless, round nature they set up their bounds;

we are despised as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

but in spite of all the locks and bars

we sing, play, dance, under the moon and stars,

drawing God's heavenly chords out of our bosh,

our music praising life, not serving dosh,

but still despised as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

every hill and valley we have crossed,

and, tho0ugh among those that the world calls lost,

our music soars from earth to heaven above,

breathing with life and ecstasy and love,

yet still despised as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

when to St Sara's shrine we make our way,

we know we will be welcomed; God will say:

'greetings, my children, much loved Roma folk.'

In God's great love we can forget our yoke,

despised by others as vagabonds and thieves,

guilty of every crime, denied reprieves.

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

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