Surviving the job centre
With your ego intact
Is a masterclass in
Wear the office clothes
You no longer have to.
Wear the smile of someone
Like your career got a flat tire
And this is the garage.
When the security guard escorts you
From desk to desk
Treat them like a valet service:
Thank them with an indulgent smile.
Have a book with you
A large one
With a sombre cover.
Carry a nice pen in your pocket.
Sail through the patronising print-out forms
With the air of a business-class traveller
Do not turn your head to the screams
Of the children in prams
Do not look worried when a claimant shouts and slurs
Two seats away
Act as if everyone else is behind glass
Pretend you are not permeable to them.
Do not let it flicker across your face
That rent is looming
That you are too bored to be well
And too broke to go out
That this is the first time you have worn shoes
In three days
That your days consist of forgetting meals
And remembering biscuits
While the mess stacks around you.
You are wearing nice shoes now:
The ones you bought
Before redundancies were announced.
Delicately correct typos and grammar errors
In the photocopied forms
Like a supervisor.
Like their supervisor.
Under ugly ceilings
The fluorescent strip-lights
Glint off your armour
Of accent, degree, CV
You are not one of them
You are just visiting.