Cryanair, by Rita Ann Higgins

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The queue was long.
The chatter rising up and down
the length of it was anxious,
especially from the elderly.
Some Cryanair soldier
is striking fear into the hearts
of the passengers in Liverpool airport.
It was about carry-on luggage.
I wasn’t too worried, my bag was small.
I had used it several times before.

The chief Crier
was walking up and down the queue
saying in a loud voice.
You have three choices
if your bag does not fit in exhibit A,
(pointing to the grill for measuring misery),
one, you pay seventy Euros cash,
two, you pay seventy Euros by credit card,
or three, you leave your bag.
Ist das klar?

I have to rule out credit card
as I had a problem with mine before I left home.
None of this will apply to me anyway.
I was only there for two days
how much money was I going to need?
My small bag, my nifty bag.
It will fit like toast.

It didn’t, the wheels stuck out.
Juggle things a woman said
rearrange things in the bag,
it’s a tiny bag. Stick your high heels
in the side pockets and try again.
The wheels still stuck out.

The Crier was a Cryanair soldier,
and he was taking no prisoners.
You have three choices he said, over and over.
We knew his choices by heart,
we didn’t need to hear them again.
I asked him if his mother knew
how he was treating people.
Don’t go down that road with me, lady.
Just pay the money or leave the bag.

I got this Liverpool Jersey for my grandson,
it took all my spare cash.
I’m a Cryanair soldier, lady.
We don’t do Mother Theresa crap.
Pay the money or leave the bag.

Can I speak to the manager, please?

I’m the only manager
you need to please.
You have three choices he said,
clicking his teeth:
You can pay the seventy Euros cash
you can pay the seventy Euros by credit card
or you can leave the bag.
He counted me down in minutes
you have twelve minutes
you have eight minutes
you have five minutes
you have no minutes.
The Crier won.
I went down on my hands and knees
and collected my belongings.
I stuffed them into a nylon bag
that I bought for a dollar in Canada months before.
It had Winners written on it.
I left my nifty bag
with the buck wheels at the boarding gate.

I felt like the biggest loser
walking across the tarmac.
Small items falling out the corner hole
of my Winners bag.
I looked back at the tooth paste,
my travel-size bottle of Argan oil
to nail down my wiry hair.
A pair of pink knickers
forty years too young for me.
I saw the Crier
a lean and mean figure
inside the glass, just looking.
A new queue was forming.
There was misery to measure
and he was hand-picked to do it.
He turned on his heel.

I’d swear I heard a click.

Rita Ann Higgins is Ireland’s leading contemporary poet and a major influence on the rising generation of vernacular, performance, and politicised poets currently revivifying poetry in Ireland. Cryanair is from her forthcoming Tongulish, published by Bloodaxe UK in a few week’s time and is a Bogmans Cannon Recommendation.

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