My drivers come from Kabul, Karachi, Kurdistan
and other regions with smiles as wide as their crescents.
There’s a kinship we, non-natives share in shared spaces
in a Prius or shisha bar nothing melts our cultures more like roasting the English
we laugh, the resonant laugh of striving to belong.
We are here and amidst our faux lamentations
Alhamdulillah, my drivers say, it’s sweet to come home in one piece, everyday,
my wife is learning English at the college, my son has a Geordie accent,
he knows nothing of home, maybe I’ll take him someday,
there’s s a shared silence, a quiet acknowledgement of the maybe.
You know, 60 years ago, you, me Christians Muslims we lived side by side, nobody cared,
everyone ate, people slept and now…
we should bomb the politicians instead,
we laugh, the kind of laugh migrants laugh to keep hope alive.
i know the nickname i’ll give you
when we become one,
i’ve sketched out the tattoo we’d get
on our ribs like ivory keys,
i know which snap i’ll slot
in my wallet & save as my screensaver,
i know my mother will pray for twins
and deliver Hebrew names
i know the ingredients of your favourite playlist
when R&B was really rhythm and blues,
i know your favourite lip balm and
skin butter and where you like my teeth,
i don’t know which Korean drama is streaming
and i won’t watch but i’ll make tea with the lemon in
you, my moon, are a reverie,
i can not shake.
Solitude is the silence of self-love
and is slippery like silk.
Sin is when I pray “God protect me from what I want”
and I don’t mean it.
Sitting up straight with neutral spine and closed eyes
is one way to start meditating
still, strap your demons in ‘til you’re ready,
lest seventy more come knocking.
Superman is who I really am beneath all this Clark Kent
all this manliness, indecision and broken walls.
Sacrifice is learning when to be still in the wind
when to reel in the anchor, leave old shores and set sail.
Satyagraha is a Sanskrit word of resistance
it starts with unfurled fists and soul force.
Solstice is when the sun is highest or lowest,
and so, our seasons change.
I say a Salah on the Sabbath because
only God knows His saints.
Surely, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
anything else can stay far away.
gold chain on the wrist
I’m a king,
& throw a kiss
at myself in the rear-view
in between bench presses and gangsta rap
men will fistbump and huff
then talk, talk in the way men talk
eventually a camaraderie develops
and soon you know who’s going through what
this guy does two hours of cardio five days a week
and sometimes strength on Sundays
he’s running from a divorce,
this bullish teen with raggedy breath
staggers round the punching bag
tired of being bullied he says
i teach him to breathe with his hits
like this, eesh eeessshh eeeeshhh in threes,
baldy with the rose tattoo calls himself a PT
but only trains blondes with tank tops,
retired officer with grey beard and cabled arms
admits having three daughters is tougher than catching criminals,
in between dumbbell lunges, this wiry man says
this is how I sweat away depression
and you can see happiness in his pores,
if men spotted each other like we do in the gym
my word, war will cease and men will live.
I don’t remember the details of why Lenny had to die
or why Gatsby was the way he was or the Irish poets
and their potato famine. I remember you never liked
the adjectives “good” or “bad”- lazy you said,
instead you taught me words like “paragon”,
that a metaphor is you – a red pen, cigarette and
espresso, an autumn breeze with crunchy leaves,
in your nest I learnt how to divine an oasis
from the driest texts, how to rip verse into morsels
and best of all, how to draw rivers from my well.
the moon is sawn in half
the girl i like kisses me on the cheek
i get home, mum has put up the christmas tree
i take off my shoes and stare at my feet
the moon is sawn in half
and tilts like an ear ring