Matryoshka

by Alexandra McCauley

I pay him three dollars to make me Slavic,
retracing my genes
(“quite a coup”).
There are no Face Apps in the 90s
but artists stuck to streets
like flavoured chewing gum –
earning more than surgeons.

A “veneer of civility” won’t do
so I translate myself into “just like you”
and he peels me off in layers,
grins through broken teeth,
and finishes with
a caricature.

How small can I go?

In my next iteration
I give out plastic bags I’d saved
as prize possessions
to unfamiliar children who want me as their penpal.
I pay them my address like gold –
which here resides in God’s home only,
churches bold with guilt
outshine concrete tower blocks –
“of course I’ll write”.

And even closer to my core
values
I refuse to eat at McDonald’s
as only tourists can afford it –
which is “just awful!”
(I’m vegetarian anyway).

Returning to my hotel –
armed guards at the door
“with those sexy uniforms and accents” –
I bravely shed my outers
triumphantly solid,
the last woman standing

and completely unchanged.