Monday, November 07, 2016

Identity Crisis

You noted the date when FedEx delivered the package ten years ago.
Opened the brand new passport, its crisp, blank pages
Pregnant with expectant travel.
Pinpricked numbers and black hieroglyphic in relief,
Black soul symbolism:
That proud Republic of Ghana inscription.
Skipping past the thumbnail photo
With your regulatory unsmiling gaze,
You scribbled your endorsement
And signed with the obligatory blue ink.
Passport expires: November blah-blah-blah 2016

2016. Wow. Ten years to contemplate.
Will Ghana have achieved escape velocity?
Developed and escaped mindless poverty?
And finally entered the realm of normalcy?
Or regressed to the grip of that previous, vicious, venal cabal?
Their petty, mercenary corruption typically banal.
Who knows what the future holds?
Will we still be living under the shadow of George W. Bush?
Looting and shell games, a firm voice as we brag:
Mission accomplished, torture swept under the rug

No matter.

Create that reminder.
Duly entered in Google Calendar
14 months prior to said expiry date.
It pays to be prepared, best not to tempt fate.
Then, two years ago, that other business to relate
Your easy access to the United Kingdom
The trauma of losing London
Unlike that other writer, your time away wasn't subject to expiry
Still that officious immigration officer made sure to give you the third degree
"You can appeal or seek redress at the British embassy"
The gatekeeper's smirk as he policed his border's agency
His message: "Best of luck, there goes your notional residency"

No matter.

18 months ago, the first murmurs of discontent
Troubling phrases overheard:
"Everything must be biometric",
"No budget for printing paper to be spent"
"They've stopped issuing passports".
"Unless you've got family connections, you're out of luck."
"God help you if yours expires, you'll be stuck"
A sickening sense as you contemplate:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration wishes to inform Ghanaians resident abroad and the general public that due to circumstances beyond the control of the ministry, there is currently a shortage of machine readable passports, and that has severely impacted the ability of the missions abroad to provide machine readable passports at the present time...

All Ghanaians wishing to travel home on any emergency, upon request, will be issued with a travel certificate to enable him or her make the trip home.

A special letter will be issued to any such applicant to be presented to the passport office in Accra for a new biometric passport to be issued him or her to facilitate the return journey.

Finally, we urge all our nationals to bear with us as we find lasting solution to the problem.

No matter.

You've borne so far with this duty abrogation
18 months spent watching, waiting for said lasting solution.
Your routine, monthly, and then weekly,
Check the website, call the embassy

And so you'll wake up on this Tuesday in November
Stranded mid-Atlantic, a man without a country,
A veritable exiled soul. clutching your passport,
That expired token of Ghanaian identity.

Deportation implied, yet exit prohibited
For lack of stamp or date validated

And now that Gee has died
And left you forlorn and brokenhearted
You have to put aside thoughts of being funeral minded.
It has now come to this, in your moment of grief,
You'll have to request an emergency travel certificate in order to go home
Pray and hope that the airlines and Homeland Security will grant you relief
To even allow you to board without a leg to stand
And wonder if still others will let you pass through their lands.

"I see here that you propose
To transit through these British principalities
With this so-called travel certificate"
A hearty laugh from deep inside the belly
of Her Majesty's border representative

Imagine: being rejected out of hand
Denied entry to one's own country
For lack of an officious stamp
You've joined the ranks of the sans papiers
Out of status, now a cause of airline delays

No recent, non-specific general threat.
Instead wist, and a tinge of regret,
Or rather, dismay is truly all you have left.
Deftly pickpocketed of your national heft
Statehood denied, this open wound leaves you bereft
Afflicted by the stamp of malaise,
Robbed, assaulted by bureaucratic neglect
You're a rootless cosmopolitan,
A true casualty of identity theft

Consider yourself trapped in a ludicrous legal limbo
You're being taught the finer lessons of Ghana must go

containers: sign artist

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