Welcome Mat

by Helen Dring

For you, airplane wings said

'life has not been kind here'.

Kind, like what was missing was

tea or as if we didn't clean our windows properly.

There was that time when, stood in the kitchen

Rupert saw the fire. Flames lapping at the gate of the

alleyway, skirting the cornerstone of brick — and how you

said they didn't really mean it.

And there was the silence that set in to his

bones by half term — head shaking and

the whispers of 'I can't tell you'. You thought

that he did not belong to anyone, that the

world should raise each other's children, - but

not when he walked home in the snow

without shoes and told you that

he had lost them.

And how no-one listened. How teachers said there

was no racism in their schools, that they would notice.

How shops never said no, but suddenly seemed to run

out of toilet roll and bleach, and eggs were in

such short supply until midnight. And Rupert's

hands got used to stripping paint, his hands

cleaning wood until he finally cracked

and pushed his palm through the door.

And the funeral, bleak with only you and Pastor

John and the translator. Snow glittering around the

open mouth of a grave, looming to swallow him.

A goodbye, torn from your chest, before you walked

home to more white paint and slogans: go home. Home,

which was a world away and no more inviting than here.

Another flight, bought with scrimped pennies and open ended -

'after all', you said, 'we all belong somewhere'.