The immigrant attends to paperwork

All night she sifts torn
paper into garbage bags,

careful not to leave
a trail of names or living

places. Hard enough to be
the one passed over.

Hard to be the one whose face
becomes easily mistaken

in the bland light that pours
through early trains. So

she doesn’t want to hand over
the secrets of her middle

names, the passwords to
her childhood. Once,

when she was very ill, the elders
shouted a different name

over and over her fevered form.
They embroidered its ugly

syllables on face towels
and pressed them to her brow.

Somehow her soul knew then
to crawl into its quietest

room, the one she still
retreats into on hearing

winds shift and grasses
lengthen into shadow,

on hearing demons inspecting
for hiding places in the earth.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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