Welcome to Issue Ten
A young boy sits between his parents on the train as it chugs out of Pressburg station. He looks out at the wide Slovak plains stretching on either side, the farmland and small houses. It is all new to him; he has only known the dark and crowded streets of New York, the small tenement flat where his family lived, near to his many aunts and uncles. His favourite uncle, Joe, only a year older than he is, is more like a cousin or a best friend. He doesn’t know when he will see him again. He is being brave; this new life is the one his parents have chosen.
Six walls replace three of scenery.
On the sides, slowly moving faces
sucking at the glass.
They put a colourful ruin in the centre
so they can watch me explore in and out,
questions and answers.
She knows he’s wondering if she’s the starving or the vomiting kind and he seems rude enough to actually ask. He walks behind her when she shuffles into the living room in her massive tiger paw slippers and she can feel his eyes through the fabric of her tracksuit bottoms that hangs in a pouch over her nonexistent bum. It’s freezing. He’s rubbing his hands to warm them up.
Grandmother thumbs the knotted skin above her right eye, where they removed her horn. It was a long time ago, she says. Back when they wouldn’t let folk like us keep them. It will be different for you. Don’t let anyone prune away the strangeness that makes you strong. When I ask about Ma, she smiles and says these things often skip a generation.
Sometimes I am so terrified when I wake
by the problems of the world
that I cannot move my small body
into it. I used to be one of those people who fights
the whole damn lot, or tries
But it is so complicated, it just made me want to lay
I see her through the window, the plane still taxiing, the seatbelt signs not yet extinguished. She’s on the roof terrace they closed when they were modernising, but she won’t know that. Wearing the dress she bought in Peter Jones, so long ago, it’s back in fashion. She’s excited to see me; I can tell from her body language; she waves, knowing I will spot her. She will no doubt know others who are meeting friends and family, and she’ll have told them, I’m meeting my daughter. I will never again be as looked forward to as I am now.
“Step aside, sir,” the screening officer says as she begins to unzip and thumb through his trolley bag, which is now stuffed with things he moved from his overweight suitcase at the check in.
“Where are you flying to?”
“Pakistan.” He smiles wide enough to reveal his set of chipped teeth.
He heads straight to the gate where he is first in line to board the plane that will inevitably take off late because a number of families will have missed the tanoy announcement and the airline will have to unload their luggage from the plane: last call for flight PK788 to Karachi.
You can buy yourself a wind current now. You can give it your name like you can to a star. You pay what the price is and they send you white paper. You can frame the certificate for everyone to see.
She introduces herself as Ky and asks if a tour is planned for the day.
They’ve already left, says the boy at the counter. Low tide will be just after twelve today so they had to go at nine to be back in good time.
…and his jeans are belted up below his arse. His fucking shreddies is on display. I says to him, ‘Oye mate, your trousers is falling down,’ and the sobriety of the carriage shatters. I soak up looks from all them suits, shuffling uncomfortably. Meanwhile our fashionista glares at us, says something under his breath. Patois, like. I return the stare with a smile, unblinking, daring him to raise the stakes…but he ain’t game. He turns his back and looks long into the wasteland zooming past, like he’s desperate to step outside of his world; remove the yoke yanking him up the line.
The pomegranate, halved, looks like a brain,
exposed and vulnerable, papery membrane
shielding the cells, easy to take apart:
too apt an image for my father’s mind.
I peel the membrane clear, loosen the seeds
from bitter pith. The juice flies everywhere,
pinpricks of purple staining where they touch.