Hole

The face! just like your mother’s, or
was it the hair, the voice,
the clothes – and you are
thousands of miles and decades ago.
Following a stranger
with hooded eyes. Lost.

Then a car horn, someone speaks,
and you are back again, answering
in the wrong language,
clearing throat to unstick words.
What are the names for these things?
The crowd is nothing else. I am fine,
just lost
in thought.
The kerb presses through your shoe-sole.

***

We are a long way from the mountains.
You understand? God can’t see
through smog.

Write home when you can.

***

Easy to end here.
They would rifle through your pockets,
find the plastic rectangle
that names you.
They would call the numbers
on your phone and reach no one.
Take you away, find
another foreigner
who learns – too late –
that in this unfamiliar language
there is no true word for home.

You had an uncle
who moved there.
No one’s heard from him in years.
I forget his name.

The other country

This place has constellations.
Not like where you came from.
That was the main difference
– at first, anyway.

You would not tell this to anyone.
Engines or sirens
remind you of home.

These and the flickering words
of your mother
delivered across oceans.
They hit with enough force to drown.
Salt eats faces, voices,
the language

is starting to stick in your throat.
You speak it to yourself
when nobody is listening.
Sometimes, you forget which word means what,
and must ask, when you can, like a child.

When she asks how you are,
you don’t lie:
They treat me well.
I’m happy here.
She asks for photos.

Wishes you’d write more.

From time to time you send back
an image like the real thing.
Your face, the street you live on.
Once you even turned the lens on the night,
but the camera failed you
and in the still the sky was black.