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
and gaze at pictures on the television screen.