• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 02
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A list

What is shame? she said
And I wrote her a list
On the back of the cereal packet
That poor people buy in the poor people shop

It is the grandmother who cleans her doorstep
Scrubbing, scrubbing to erase the words
Overheard in the bakery queue
About 'those people' living in 'that street'

It is the boy who presses his lips closed
And looks at the pictures and feels the sick bloom on his face
It is the girl who doesn't understand the need
For the right clothes, the right hair, the right face
And the girl who does
It is that monkey on her back, shrieking in her ears
As if their ease, their stares, their mocking weren't enough

It is the fist, that smacks the clever mouth
The needle, bottle, pill
The finger down the throat
It is the mask
It is the tight, small spaces where a person squeezes, breathless, listening
It is Bartholomew, mesmerized by salt as tongues of skin peel and hang
It is, above all, a silence
              A space not taken

I look at the list
And scribble out the words
I throw them in the bin