by Ruth Valentine

I have circled the planet.
Above the tawny land of my ancestors,
the Arc of the Covenant on its holy mountain,
I saw the inside of a cotton bag
yanked down over my head; at my wrists and ankles
percussion of steel, blood and the links’ negation.
Oh my grandfather in the Emperor’s palaces!
I have been freighted between the continents
like roses from Columbia, packed half-frozen,
secret above the cloud-layer. Calculate
the weight of my soul in food-miles, airfields, stars.
Wherever I was unloaded, it was the same
in tropical heat or frost, in the hood-blurred light
off whitewashed walls, in hangars;
                                               the warders trained
by the same chalk-stripe men, in lecture rooms
I try to imagine: Powerpoint images,
role-play perhaps, with laughter, or simulation
on a mannequin sewn in India or Taiwan,
its hessian skin my colouring, my scars.