something about his kiss,
so urgent, so intense
but also sort of desperate
like he’s falling off a cliff
and pulling you down with him.
do you cling onto him tight
or save yourself and back away?
he turns to you the face of a scolded child
before indignation overcomes him
from the eyebrows down.
when he lies through his teeth
there’s a barefacedness about it
that almost makes you reel,
that almost makes you believe.
he lacks the grace to blush
when that might have been enough.
but you melt inside to hear
that laughter like a welcome home,
a retreat into the recent but irredeemable past,
when the way you held each other
was light as you might cradle an injured dove
that flew into your backyard fence one evening,
but ferocious and all-consuming in its tenderness.
you remember the days
you wandered off the trail
lost in a complicated argument
of not quite the whole truths
and sheltering in pizza parlour bars
while the rain came down like doomsday
on the tetons, left feeling inconsequential,
as people clutching strange instruments
cluster in around you for a hootenanny.
maze of creases on his face
from a crumpled pillowcase
like a map back into his childhood
when his mother might shake
him gently awake for school.
he suddenly seems defenceless
when you rouse him at 3 am
bewildered and plaintive
and you forgive him before
he can even begin to apologise.
Photo by Chantal
unsure who to trust in extremity
a subtly perplexed tension
about his eyes and eyebrows
that stirs sympathy to make
your eyes smart and throat ache.
he has the persecuted downward glance
fixed on the boots that march toward him
a muscle in his cheek twitches minutely
as he flinches at orders barked into his face
schools his expression into neutral
and dampens any defiance in his
demeanour into acquiescence.
Image: Ludwig Trepte as Viktor Goldstein in Generation War
slightly parted expectant lips
the exact shade of a pink opal fruit
made to make your mouth water.
he flicks his fringe out of his eyes
in an intimate gesture,
leans toward the webcam,
confidentially all yours.
on the other side of the world,
he has skyped himself into your bedroom
a subtle invasion you collude in.
I am not up to anything
I am staying in with my pain
I was just a change of scene for you
You are as heartless as a person alive can be
And I love you
To the loose threads of my soul
In the most secret corners of my heart
I love you as you laugh
Exactly as if nothing ever happened
I love you as you walk away
Exactly as before
pinned to your chest
you attached it yourself
how could you comprehend
it marked you out for death?
like the oversize white Xs
they paint on the trunks
of condemned trees
in suburban streets.
a line of numerals
on your forearm
reminds you of the time
you fell into a world of harm:
a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from.
your cancelled future may have held a child
with no idea that that school badge of merit
that proud distinction
now coveted and craved
pressed onto the top
righthand corner of the page
once spelt extinction.
perhaps he can still remember
the unique and special
taste of the paste
on the tip of his tongue,
as he carefully moistened
its delicate reverse.
he may equate it with success,
a past perfumed with chalk dust,
promise and hopefulness.
but you too were once like this,
running in a playground
of levelled light-grey gravel,
invincible and breathless,
a coloured sash across your chest.
unafraid and innocent,
not knowing what it was then
not possible to know.
and now there is no unknowing it.
Image from Wikipedia, Antisemitism
thank goodness for the ends of days.
arrive home in time to watch old heroes
escape from paradise, to shower off
the menopausal women, talking about
pyrex dishes and bread and butter pudding.
or betty who had her cat put down.
distressing stories passed around like herpes,
or someone’s packet of scampi and lemon crisps.
we say goodbye to the machine.
take refuge in the endless adventures of the screen.