I could smell cigarettes

as we entered the suite

and crossed the worn-down, faded-pink carpet,

navigating the unfamiliar route.

 

we got lost

and a smiling blonde in blue lead us the way,

laughing, as if this was normal.

 

there was nowhere to sit, in the room.

grey humans filled faintly patterned armchairs,

armchairs which swallow you up when you sit in them.

 

they look, as if we were the caged ones;

but say nothing, because we are strangers:

uninvited guests in their shared safe place.

 

another blonde in blue, who smiled less,

pushed her into the "dining room"

which was empty

excluding a woman, whose face i could not see,

laid in a recliner, swathed in blankets,

by the window. on the table next

to her was a radio – the archaic square kind with no face

– and the voices coming from the machine discussed

censorship and politics and government

while their sleeping listener snored , rasping like a cat.

 

some of us spoke

everyone was silent

none of us knew how to conduct oneself.

on the wall was a painting, a colouring-in, of

Arthur the Tea Man,

by Eileen. His coat was not the right colour – purple –

and blank spaces were left,

but she had stayed within the lines,

distinguishing the painting

from the work of a little boy or girl.

the painting frightened me.

 

the talk was small

a clock in the corner called out, twice,

and we left.

yellow plastic covered a section of the carpet.

I wondered if someone had fallen there.

I wondered what stain the plastic sheet was hiding.

 

downstairs we found him,

in a room crowded with blinking strangers.

he knew they did not belong there

he knew that here was neither theirs or his home

he couldn't understand that home

is a place he will never be

 

he was as small as a child

even smaller than the tiny woman in the corner with sunken cherry stones for eyes.

 

like a wayward toddler, he wandered away. he wanted to

change his shirt, to dress up, to play games, to do something: he itched.

this places inspires restlessness

but survival is easier

when you submiss

give in

stop thinking

and gaze at pictures on the television screen.

 

 

 

 

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