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Tuesday, June 10, 2008


by David Chorlton

Where are you from? You always have to ask.
It hurts not to know. The accent won’t let you rest.
Anyone can tell a foreigner by listening. The other country
is buried in every word. You can ask in a tentative voice
pretending to be curious as if it really doesn’t matter
you’d just like to know. Or you can emphasise the you
to be offensive because you’re not a foreigner. You’re home.
You belong. Do you like it here? You ask that too.
You only want one answer and if you get another
you’re upset. You’re insulted. How insulted
depends on the degree of foreignness. Some foreigners
look like you. They come in small groups. Singles.
Married couples. Others come in multiples. They insist
on shipping in their culture and unloading it
in neighbourhoods that look as if they’d seceded.
When you say foreigners these are the ones you mean
because the others are invisible. One foreigner doesn’t disturb you. One alone doesn’t take a lot of space. A country of one
can be easily invaded. You’ve invaded foreigners. Bombed them.
You know which side you’re on. But you don’t always know
which side foreigners are on. Maybe
they don’t have a side. Is neutral a nationality? Is it immoral?
Can they be arrested for taking no side but their own? You stop asking the foreigners who look like each other where they’re from
because you feel alone when you’re around them. You feel
like a foreigner. You need the company of someone
who speaks with the same accent as you do. Someone of your
culture. Someone who understands you. The mirror image
of your soul. Or you’d settle for anyone who asks you where
you’re from so you could say you’re from here you believe
in God you don’t want to stop torturing foreigners you
just don’t want to talk about it your family has roots here
like crabgrass your ancestors won this country they
were foreigners then nobody thought to ask them
where they came from.

David Chorlton's interests include birds, sport (specifically European football) as a means to understand society, very old music, and the passage of people between cultures. Origami Condom published his online chapbook Dry Heat and another new group of poems is available as Border Sky at