Winners 2003: First prize

Aruna Nair (Winner)

Olchfa School, Swansea

The Passport

The doors swing back. Here you are.
This room, this shadowless peach, lined
with smiles, lipstick-bright, glowing behind glass,
this is the place. Fat blue chairs line the hall where you
sit and wait, tired-eyed, half-bored, one woman gripping
a solemn-mouthed child. Hush. Open your eyes. Look
hard, look close. The streaking light in the glass. The one
small crack in the peach of the wall. The smallstar glint
in that faded eye. Slide your eyes down, further. The
shadows sneak down the walls and pool
gathering like ghosts in corners
twining and purling and now you hear it
the air shot through with their hundred-languaged whispering
somewhere else somewhere else. Here
is where the drowned, their tangled hair and rolled-white eyes,
wanted to be, back
when they were real, whole and human, worrying, fighting,
hurry hurry
down into silly nothing-boats
already cracked or into the chill space behind
some suitcase, eyes a bleary black like newsprint,
somewhere else somewhere else.
If you let them they can fill all the air,
your throat, this gluey light full
with that one shuddering, whispering cry. Hush. Shake your
head of it.
Someone’s calling your name. Open now
your supplicant hand and receive this thing, thin,
you balance so carefully on this mesh of lines,
twining and tangling, each one
deep-driven, taut as a lifeline.