by Jake Dennis
Second Generation Migrant Working in Perth
Day 1 – Friday
Cleaning school windows
for cash, Jay’s apprentice and I
wear blue singlets. Both slaves
but I am the bastard son.
covers glass as Jay
drags his scraper down
to me. ‘Finish it.’
Day 2 – Saturday
I learn that scalpels
remove grit as easily
as fingers. I drip
into a bucket of grey
Day 3 – Monday
Jay’s apprentice works
like a mop. ‘Wash
the windows behind
those bushes,’ he commands.
I watch the class
from outside, and the apprentice
and Jay comment – being mates, –
how well I blend in
amongst “the jungle.”
There are no homes for me on Ramsey Street.
Models look nothing like me. In nightclubs
or when you’re looking for love,
I am a shadow you walk past.
You think because I’m black
I steal or rap, because I’m “Asian”
I ace Math. How wrong
you are. How out of place
I seem in your couture store, how sweet
of you to follow me around in case
I need any help, send assistants
to watch me. Then I am black flesh,
the object of your attention.
Thank you for imagining how virile
I am when it’s dark, for letting me
have my space in empty parks
and buses. So kind of you
to walk past, brows tensed.
We fit well amongst leaves,
police reports, and Centrelink, you think.
I’ve met your father before.
Nice to meet you again. My name’s Lucky.
Wouldn’t you like to be lucky
like me? Here are my shoes; try them.
Like a bather by Degas but smaller,
grandma sits on the hotel bed,
her brown irises shadowed blue,
wet grey hair dyed brown,
crows feet wrinkles like running ink,
clear water drops on her bare shoulders,
her hands’ skin loose as fabric,
language drifting away, leaves down a river,
her silvered soles travelled through Myanmar,
through Thailand, through Singapore, into Australia,
over stone, grass, brown mud, black dirt, red dust,
her longhi1 gold and covered with flowers,
a soldier’s photograph in her purse,
her pensioner’s checks spent,
cooking until the end,
she stares at us.
1. Burmese house dress.