The Battle to Reside

September 29, 2009

In the darkness before the darkness before dawn

In the isle of desolation amidst a city of color

A few figures, shadows and backpacks, congregate

A few form a haphazard line extending back from the gate

This gate of the LABO is the absolute border of the country

This gate demarcates our courteous selves

From their mechanism of human reduction and

From our stampeding hive selves, desperate

But all is now quiet as the sky re-casts itself from black to gray

But all is silent, though we all know a little broken English

More vehicles drop off more shadows, the line grows

More vehicles drive by their early shifts, perplexed drivers

Wonder about the line, its curvature along the industrial river bank

Wonder about the Ausländer, Fremden, Farbigen, Amis

No reasonable person save s/he who needs a living

No reasonable anonymous group should be up at this hour

Lights flicker on behind the gate; the dawn is drowned

Lights flicker on to slip silhouettes on forgotten shadows

All are of one mind – the page with the stamp is needed

All are well-informed – only here, only now, only when first

And the gates open

And the flood patters forth

At least 30 meters down the cement walkway to the door

At least 100 desperate shadows suddenly illuminated

Trampling desperately, cattle running to feed

Trampling desperately, the line’s composition changes

Now it’s a smashed amoeba up against a tower of cement and glass

Now it’s time for the shadows to hurry up and wait

The sun’s time has come, its beauty covered by a train

The sun’s arrival is heralded by few anymore, let alone by the shadows

More conversation – civilization resumes its “civil” root

More conversation – mutual vipers flick tongues in ignorance

Rumors fly:  some have been standing there since 3 a.m., you need to get your visa before you can register for classes, only 50 people were given numbers last time, this is the 4th time I’ve been here, when they open the doors you have to squeeze in, they’re denying Egyptians for some reason, Americans have it easy, Americans have it hard, our late friend’s Irene’s going to join the line, this is ridiculous, this is stupid, I thought the Germans were supposed to be efficient, what kind of visa do you need to stay?  we ran out of days three days ago, I have a child – coming through, you should see the bathrooms in there, are we even in front of the right door?

Cantankerous, an official warns us to back away – they need to get in

Cantankerous, a surly Polish woman scoffs at this absurdity

“The ones who’ve been working are us!” she barks

“The ones who are making it worse – that’s all of you!”

Pronouncing his German very slowly and loudly makes him understood

Pronouncing his syllables for the 25% who know the language

The rest look around for broken English translations

The rest mock and jeer and call and mob; the only right they have now

We are to be let in a few at a time, so we don’t crush our way in

We are to let those lucky few with appointments through, the ones with papers

So many stones have been laid in the basket of our visas, yet

So many blasted hopes have been laid at the LABO’s threshold

7:00! Yet another surge, the waves like in concerts crashing against security

7:00! Yet more shouting from the German official, letting a few in

A guard with his back to us puts his arms across the door

A guard lets those few who ran first to get their prize

Hatred swells in the mass:  against them, the guards, the officials inside

Hatred swells in the guards: against the unruly students, some of them scientists

Half-an-hour later, the crush subsides, hope shoved to another dark morning

Half-an-hour later, guards mop the sweat from their brow, cursing the hordes and their
Inconsiderate outright forthright savage uncouth unprecedented impolite forceful
Impudent adolescent murderous screaming bloodthirsty thrashing crushing breaking

Dark skin American clothing headscarves shifty eyes hairy ears bushy eyebrows

Greasy hair unwashed faces grabbing hands strange accents broken English

It isn’t their fault – talk to the boss, get him to hire everyone back, make extra hours

It isn’t their fault – people need visas to eat and the visas eat the people

This is what Ordnung looks like.

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