I was held by Homeland Security -
the only blonde-haired, pearl-wearing,
unveiled woman, the only person
with confidence in the by-ways
of the English language, its freeways
and unlit no-through-roads.
The officer with the scraped-back hair
and a bulging holster at each hip
eyeballed me: “You’ve got bad fingerprints,”
my fingertips dry as the mouths
of the speechless Hijabi women,
“Should have moisturized on the plane.”
Not their fingerprint reader at fault
but me who was bad: like a bottle of gone-off
milk, like Michael Jackson, like a badge,
a curse, a thrill. What should I do with
my new-found badness? Rob banks
and fool forensics with impenetrable prints?
Best to start small – ignore the Big Issue seller,
fail to give up my seat, swim out beyond
the coastguard’s flags, give tourists false
directions, cheat at the self-checkout - badness
spreading from my fingertips up my arms,
pumping in my veins, blackening my heart.
If you have any comments on this poem, Maggie Butt would be pleased
to hear from you.