Where you grew up, there was a calendar
with rural scenes above the aga.
You crossed off the days before your birthday.
You aren’t supposed to use it as a password, but you do.
How can a person not know
the date that they were born on?
It makes you suspicious from the start.
At school, they tried to teach you French,
five years of study and ordering a coffee is beyond you.
If, as she claims, she never went to school,
how come she’s fluent in three languages?
Who taught her? Why?
No one could say you’re ignorant of trauma;
your husband buggered off without a warning
and left the bills unpaid.
You talked about it for a year without a breath.
But when you ask her why she left her homeland,
she’s halting, tongue-tied.
It’s obvious she’s lying.
You can’t imagine what she’d been through,
you really can’t:
the terror that has bitten to her bones,
the storm of grief and chaos that blew her to your desk.
Your little life’s too narrow to let you understand
the meaning of asylum, and why she needs it.
You sigh, and stamp rejected on the forms.
The crucial moment for asylum seekers is the ‘Substantive Interview’, where the interviewee’s account of their reasons for asylum seeking are rigorously tested and challenged. People wait months and years for their interview, only to experience a gruelling ordeal which results in the rejection of their claim.
© Nicola Davies, from Choose Love, Graffeg 2022