her world, she’s broken it, she said

her world, she’s broken it, she said
She bolts in
Through the ‘Out’ gate
Stands in sneakers and distress
Her school uniform, her hair – wet
Clinging to her cry for help
We all turn to stare
From our fixed queue order
Some of us try to understand
To spend some listening
This side of the counter
They’re all after her
She couldn’t study
She is in need of a dollar
Her world, she’s broken it, she said
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Stick to ducking the barriers while you can – waiting in line at job centre


Please Queue Here. Sliding doors into job centre, the ‘centre-link’, or whatever it is called wherever you live, and my dignity stays outside, tied to a bin watching passersby with purpose and paid contracts tucked under their armpit. Feeling them brush past and march on through Determination into an office. Or another sliding door. In which you feel legitimate. I wipe my feet across a mat, Please Queue Here, and stay still, finding the tail end of a week-long queue. A small shuffle forward and the man in front sighs again. The reception is long. Employed grown-ups are frowning outside, hooked elbow of a thousand SIM faithfuls flowing past. Inside, we are lining up to be given a number so we may, apparently, climb out of this pot-hole of poverty and into a mortgage. We are clinging to our sense of self that still believes in possibility, against all the monochrome, the slumped shoulders, the babies that cry and the adults that are desperately trying to climb the gutter lip of their own groove. We spin on making this same music, we remind ourselves what is important. In this silence, in this begging wait, in this context, what is important remains silent. We don’t speak to one another. We are too busy surviving. 

“A thousand survivors,

jostling for a smile”