Young in London, 1986
You’re standing on the edge drinking lager.
He stands near the centre, swaying to music
I start to like now, seeing electric potential
in the muscles tightly flexing in his shirt.
A sinew twitches, moving up the base of his thumb
as he touches a shoulder beside him
and his teeth bare quickly in a grin.
You are not watching him. I think like me
you came to this bar alone, and like me
you don’t know quite how to be here.
So your questioning face, upraised a little
acknowledging me there delights me.
You giggle in girlish cockney.
I see you’re even younger than me.
Then—a stain of purple
fed by blood. Sarcoma
under peachy fuzz …
I can’t stop seeing …
how it seeps hurt more than any punch,
but at the same time
liking the urgency of your eyes,
and the pitch of your voice,
its warm emotion cutting through
the beat and grunts of talk behind.
Your cigarette shakes from twig like arms,
your coat hangs off you like a drunk’s blanket,
your shoulders filled it once—and I know
it’s running in you out of control, it can’t be hidden.
I bend to catch your breath,
your words now soft, questioning.
You see what’s in me,
standing out in purple like your bruise,
the drive to be wanted tonight,
you feel it too—more than ever.
I whisper in your ear about the coldness
I can’t stop feeling between the imposing buildings,
the teeming crowds, writing home, writing my thoughts
in a tiny room booming with traffic, then walking out …
You tell me of a man—you don’t know where he is.
You were sick, but now you’re getting better …
Then we try to keep it light, but there’s too much
behind your eyes, as we swivel and gesture and
run out of words, I turn away from you and look at him.
His eyes are steady and twinkling, reflecting all the others
who twist and stare at him, but he looks beyond.
I want to wear his thoughtless ease,
to give the thrill he does when he touches,
but he doesn’t see me, so I look back at you.
And I wish I had the spell to send
this curse too frightening to even name
away—and make you like him, but still like you.
You’d keep the flashing in your eyes,
and he’d find the dark singing in your voice.
But I only find this thought too late,
walking in the dark of a windy street,
knowing I’m part of this city’s cruelty.