The Interview Room: Loans and Mortgages, Floor 2
I’d like to apply for a loan, please
my first name is
my surname is
my income is
she sits polite as a tea-party
calm and smiley
my income is
my current debt is
their suits have the name of the bank sewn in
she talks to the suit
he talks through his suit
through his hat
his bowler hat
are you paid monthly or weekly
are you paid in lunar months
in ovulation months
we must have all the facts at our disposal, Madam
to make the right decision
rooms like doctors surgeries –
the pot plants’ fleshy green
the smell of the carpet
who would have thought from her highlights and her manicure
she needed money so badly
which debt will you pay off with your debt
which of the monies you don’t have
would you like to spend first
penury or poverty
and she ticks box box box
and never cries or shouts
or throws her handbag to the floor
but draws the pen and form towards her
with her bright, smart nails
and gets to enjoy the impassive rooms
the coffee in disposable cups
she enjoys – it must be – the attention
the care they take with their questions
your incomes and outgoings
your 3 month’s statements
your statements on race and religion
all of your statements
all of your statements
there is a transaction
a sort of stock exchange, a game
on the bourse
The Interview Room: Premier Banking Floor
It is almost a relief to leave the kids and the laundry
and the dishwasher and sit in the small, glass room
with the gentle din of the air con and the sober colours.
Nobody shouts in a bank.
It is almost a relief to sit passively and be told
about the unexpected decline in returns and
the inherent fragility of the portfolio composition,
because the glass panels make her think of aquariums,
the slow pulse of fins and the quietened mouths.
And the young man is so calm and understanding
in his regulation suit, and the brochures so neatly stacked.
He explains the unprecedented lowering profit margin
and she thinks she would quite like to be locked in overnight,
pull down the slatted blinds at dusk, sleep safe
beneath veneered desks. How clean-shaven the young man is,
how perfectly his shirt collar fits
his smooth, pink neck, while her mascara runs and blobs
and mucus bubbles in her nose. Of course, he does not hug her,
does not even touch her hand, far better,
he inclines his head and speaks in elegant, coded phrases
of the bank’s regret, like a well mannered guest at a wake.
If only everyone was like this, in cool grey,
with the whites of their finger-nails perfectly clean,
with such high standards of customer care.
He prints out the figures for her. He is trained in this
-in managing difficult situations, he will have a procedure,
the closing of her accounts, the letters to investors.
And now she is descending the premier stairs,
blotchy faced, a couple of customers glance up,
wondering what’s on the floor above.
This is probably the last time she will use these stairs,
the last time the girl with the shiny hair will say
“Good Afternoon, Mrs Blenheim, thank you for calling”.
This is the point where The Bank bleeds onto the street,
a dangerous cloaca,
where neat rows of little black figures become:
slipped into books and birthday cards,
tobacco thumbed, coffee ringed, coke speckled,
the rime of dirt at the nostril.
Here, all that smooth, corporate cleanliness
disintegrates – paper aeroplanes, origami butterflies
flit away from The Bank
into grimy hole and corner dodgy deals,
marked and tagged,
in bookies, in pub car-parks, in red envelopes.
Three feet is the unspoken rule, a wall of thorns
woven with enchantments
and secret four-digit codes.
Turn your shoulder to the street,
shut out your friends next to you,
who light up while they wait or check their phones,
You are entering a confessional,
more intimate than a piss in an alley.
If you know the magic number
for the robot-cupboard
it spits out money, vomits forth from steel jaws,
tug the soft tongue free.
Then one day, in January, when everyone is broke –
hacked open –
rubble on the pavement, wires hanging,
and notes soaring free in the North wind,
fluttering out the silver lips and away like blessings,
landing on the good and the bad, drifting in gutters,
a mad godmother’s fairy snow
a bank’s terror.