‘I found the book moving, disturbing and revelatory.’
Caroline Smith’s new collection; The Immigration Handbook distils fifteen years experience as an Immigration and Asylum caseworker in Wembley, one of the most diverse communities in the UK. Tamil families fleeing torture, Polish farm workers seeking a better life, Afghani warlords; their stories are juxtaposed against the ‘official-speak’ of bureaucracy and a dysfunctional Home Office.
‘The detail is magnificent…there is an implicit tenderness and stoicism in the lives of these characters which shines through…’
‘Caroline Smith’s Brook Court has to be my No 1 choice. I longed to turn the page and find what happened to Anne-Marie. The poet doesn’t tell us, which is probably why this stayed with me for days.’
SelectionHe was quietly hopeful
when he got the letter
that said his case had been
‘selected for progression’,
that he would be allowed to stay.
But then a second had arrived:
‘an invitation to a service event’
and he was suspicious.
Too much activity –
this sudden attention to him.
He was scared.
It was as if after all these
years of hiding, he would
finally be led out with the
other men and boys,
through the fringe of sunlight
from the gloom of the pine forest
his hands clasped behind his head.
Brook CourtThe paunch of the gas fire blows and pops.
Residents are slumped in their high seats
beneath the cross of Jesus/Lakshmi with four arms.
There’s a smell of hot static age in the tumble drier.
The fridge hums, shuddering into a quiet period.
Anne-Marie swings back chrome lids whose insides run with water.
Mrs Kaminski remembers a banquet in Krakow;
a row of waiters standing, one hand behind their backs,
percussionists lifting silver domes.
Mrs Kaminski had three governesses –
each to speak to her in a different language –
she wishes one had been Filipino.
In the dark chapel
Anne-Marie prays to the Madonna
to get legal, to see her children again.
Ninety-eight-year-old Mr Gosar-Shah was her first chance.
For seven months, she bathed his quivering, soft-splattered skin,
emptied the blood-orange spume of his catheter bag;
blurting out the we-nosed tube of his cream,
which scurried and tumbled,
a small white animal darting rom its hole.
He died two weeks before her appeal
and she no longer had a case. But she searched
and found Mrs Kaminski – only eighty-seven.
Outside snow dries into a crystalline crust.
Mrs Kaminski worries Anne-Marie doesn’t see the warnings;
that she’ll be taken away in a raid.
Mrs Kaminski worries she will sit all day in her crumpled nightdress
white legs over the side of the bed, sun splashing
silently through the curtains, still drawn at noon.