Illegalese: Floodgate Dub

(for the Chinese maroons, British Columbia, 1999–2001)


if you arrive in the belly of a rusting imagination, there are grounds to

outlaw you. but Canada is a remix B-side chorus in the globalization

loop: a sampled track of “back home”-desiring, “old days”-admiring,

democracy-dreaming, racism-reaping homesickness that even

medicare can’t cure. there is no “fresh off the boat” or the plane or

the hope of consistency in foreign and foreigner policy or obduracy of

floodgate metaphors and death sentence deportations. the backbeat

back-bone of the chorus that screeches “back home!” is the drum

and bass treble track alliteration of Koma-Koma-Komagatamaru. and

the stowaway that the border refused will be the head stone of the

corner. when the destination is a nation that prides itself as peace-

keeping but is still sleeping on the justice and compassion lacking in



back home

back home

back home,


when jurisdiction cuts the earth to the bone,

the proper diction is the unspoken issue, and the flesh

of the people’s colour in the boats in the hull in the belly of a dream

without papers or definition, in quotations, “refugee,” a penstroke

from relief. languishing in the languaged exile of illegalese.


and if it was heroic for runaway slaves to seep into Canada,

why is it villifiable for Chinese migrants to hide in the belly of a dream

now? and when you want to draw the line or put your foot down

or formulate “enough is enough is enough is enough,”

what colour is enough? what language does it speak?

and isn’t that the real issue written between the bordered lines,

the bartered lives in this semantic peanut and shell game?


in barricaded comfort, behind armchair palisades,

wielding remote control diplomacy like a wand,

we cultivate our cathode curtain without detente.

with children lullabied by Filipino nannies, industry is carving

up the melon of our lotused coast. and “floodgates”


they say

have said

and ever shall say


but people are not a flood, borders are not God-given,

lives are not dollars, and Canada is not the sum of its exclusions.

Bibliographical info

Wayde Compton, "Illegalese: Floodgate Dub," from Performance Bond. Copyright © 2004 by Wayde Compton. Reprinted by permission of Arsenal Pulp Press.

Source: Performance Bond (1st ed.) (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004)

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