you reflect on how they tried to bury us, our bodies
blurred beneath layers of scum. You say,
England makes me feel like a red ant in a freezer.
This place has never been ours. Your children
look at you for an explanation. You hide them
behind piles of dictionaries and Buddhist prayers
on tape, boil their favourite broth
to mask the sounds outside. You remember the angles
of your father’s face in dim light, the day he raised his spade
to the snake that scarred your arm. He looked at you
as if you had already left, said, if you stay, you are not my son.
Here, you are no one’s son.
They weren’t there the last time a river held you, the day
your country tied your hands behind your back, asked
don’t you want to die in the most glorious way? They didn’t see
the bullet dust storms at your ankles, your sunless weeks
in the shrunken stomach of a boat, where you slept
on the two shirts you packed. If you hadn’t left, you’d be a boy
in Cambodia, spitting grains and milk teeth, blistering the sky
with a gun you can’t look at. They have never felt the scratch
of a rope bed that is nothing like your mother’s hair.
You learn to cross out your mouth, wipe the spit
from your sleeve and keep walking.
You carry your licence everywhere, accept a language
that shreds every part of your name. You carve new vowels
and tenses into your throat, talk so little of home
you lose your way back, but it is not enough. How do you prove
that your flesh is more than a myth?
At work, you ask do they hate me? They shrug and say
everyone is a foreigner until you know them,
but they will never believe how easily
a star on a flag became a rock through a window,
a wound of light expanding on every wall.