WOMEN ON THE TUBE/WHO I’D LIKE TO KISS
When I get on the tube, first I notice their shoes, and how they match the rest of their outfit, buttressing a swaying body, or delicately hanging from a crossed leg, toe pointed directly at my heart. Wearing lipstick, wearing delicious cupids bows, wearing my favourite earrings, nudging their soft necks as the train pulls away from the station. A shirt my mum would call smart. When they have their heads lean forwards, errant locks of hair dangle over their phones, and I’m jealous of the screen for being tickled by them. Later on, as they walk past me and their tailwind breezes softly along the bridge of my nose and it’s always the smell of unrequited love, the girl who was a friend first, the girl who made me feel decadent and reckless. The women who only exist as ghosts in the dregs of my compulsive heteronormativity. A coat that’s always just right for the season and a fresh manicure, wondering how those long fingers would feel on my waist, wrapped in my hair for warmth, around my neck.
GHAZAL WHILE THINKING ABOUT COFFEE MADE BY YOU
Sleep dissolves on Monday, my heart a sturdy bowl,
your alarm is retching in my ear, the coffee’s not yet cold.
Your skin always speaks before you do. I imagine you
as the bottom of a tub of e45, sleek and slippery cold.
I remember the first coffee was strong, frankly, it scared me,
but for the gently showered scalp, wet hair, fingertips cold.
I fill your bed with my sloughed skin and expect you to be
grateful. I whisper my skin cells matter, catch me like a cold.
But you still bring me coffee, even if you find you have to say
‘I don’t know how you drink this Ruth; it’s gone completely cold.’
MY NEPHEWS HAVE TOES
I honestly find it so rude that my nephews
have these tiny little toes,
five perfect mushroom caps that
would be so soft against my cheek
and each time I come upon their toes
in a photo, I am arrested by their quietly
modest but irrepressibly adorable presence.
My nephew’s toes are new beginnings,
swelling hearts and fierce tears of
longing and possibility and grief
for all that I miss and I want them to know
how important they are, and their toes, most of all.
I wonder when they will meet a person of colour
or someone gay or their partner, see my normality,
and be so fully formed. I want them
to be angry and queer and think that
their identity politics will save the world
before they discover class warfare
and tell you gently, but forcefully
I’m voting for a socialist.
I want them to love me, and feel
like they can be mad at me because
I’m trying to remember that conflict is healthy.
I want their toes and their heart to be a vessel
and to be full up, to care radically, and to crave
emotional intensity and intimacy. Sometimes when
their vessels are empty, I want them to come to me
because I wanted to go to someone so badly.
When they read about their toes, I want them to ask
me why their toes and I will say
something so devastatingly clever,
something I don’t even know how to say
yet and it will make them laugh, and
their laughs will fall upon me and
fill my own heart vessel with such unexpected
care and tenderness.