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by Tina Cole
I have come to ask about benefits
I am not fluent in benefits, but I know
a bit about foreign, I can say estrangerio in Portuguese.
I have escaped lands sick with war and tyrants
yet my life here is still one-part sugar to ten parts vinegar.
Cooking is not my strength either – you should try another
department, as an illegal you have no recourse to public benefits.
My people were like small rivers rushing into a hundred
seas, so many washed up black-sheeted on foreign shores,
their tide is sloshing and rising.
You are talking in riddles, the vocabulary you carried here is as gaudy
and deceptive as those Matryoshka you people sell at markets.
Why am I always on the way to somewhere else? The same streets
grow old with me, the same neighbours turn away, close their curtains
against falling stars, step over gutters that run a filthy red brown
sluice, no words of comfort pass the borders of your teeth.
You are not in the right place, you should have phoned ahead to book
a longer appointment, next time we will need a translator.
My body is mapped in old ways of being where Summer’s song
is an aria of fire and blood, of ancient survivors
with a frayed past, you cannot unpick us, we are seamed together
in your high voltage cities where cardboard ziggurats grow
in the freezing yawn of doorways.
Yes, well, thank you, your time is up for today, maybe make
another appointment for next week?