Ignorance lies in the beholder’s eye


So, frequently I would head to poetry nights after work, which back in my more corporate days meant I turned up wearing a suit.

And encountered some very hostile reactions.

And it struck me as odd because these were the very same people who would then stand up and declaim about how society would be so much better if we all stopped judging on appearances.

So, I wrote this poem.

Ignorance lies in the beholder’s eye

I wear a suit, which means I may work in

An office, but people think it means a

Lot more, so I ask you how much does it

Give away? Does it show that my mother

Is African? That my Irish father

Was banned from her country for reporting

On white police violence against black

Youths? Does it give you a picture of the

Commune where I grew up? My German minder,

My Scottish second father, can you

See in its tailoring my Grandfather

Was a witch doctor or that my cousin

Is a world class expert in African

Music? Does the warp of its weft reveal my

Childhood of anti-nuclear marches

And women’s lib meetings? Perhaps my tie

Shows my private school had blood in the dorms

And rape in the showers. That when I switched

To a new school in London, someone looked

At me the wrong way and I broke his nose.

Does this colour tell you I was almost

Expelled? But that the teachers there called to

The man, inside the angry, frightened

Boy and I became a scholar, not a

Thug. Do my  shoes reflect the summer I

Spent fighting skinheads within the

Anti-Nazi league? Or the year on a

Game reserve in Africa? Does the crease

In my trousers say I’m trilingual,  as

At home in Cairo or Paris as the

Markets of Brixton and Roman Road, it

May be my ironed shirt indicates I

Can strip a Browning pistol blindfolded,

Sleep outdoors for a month in minus 5,

Gut, clean and cook fish, rabbit or bird, or

Run for miles with pack on back. That I’ve heard

The siren scream of rockets overhead

And seen a body slump, never to rise

Again. Do these clothes demonstrate my nights

Of terror, the realisation all

I once believed in held no truth for me

Any more. The rebirth and redemption

As life opened another door that led

To  freedom from what once was and the chance

To begin anew. See I’ve worn many

Garments in my life, a school blazer, Grunge

Rocker’s mac, a soldier’s khaki and now

I wear a suit……And the only thing that

You can tell about me from that is that


I may work in an office.


  1. Great poem James


    1. Thanks Rachel!


  2. Kelly Mullane · · Reply

    Clever and so true Jamie – we judge so much on how people look nowadays – that and their accent too! Brilliant Poem.


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