LOVE. Poetry from Tanaka Mhishi

Long Distance

I love you. It waxes and wanes.Some days I imagine your face and it's likea deep ticking inside me, a wasted muscle.Then, palming apples in the supermarketmy love for you will shake me by theshoulders, drain my chest of oxygen.Fruit rolls in the aisles.Seeing your face at the stationI wait for a pang of want. Nothing.It is only later, when your head moves,birdlike to music, or smile slashes openyour moonscaped face, that I have to clutchat my own thighs. Sometimes your typing handsget me so hot I want to pour myself rightinto you. Sometimes I want to smashthe keyboard. When you’re hereI look forward to unsharedbathwater and less washing up.Then I am sat, peeling sweet clemsor clipping valerian leaves for tinctureand there is a river running along my spine,running like a current, running like a song, runninglike a lamplight through the gloom, and the floorfalls out of my love for you, and I rememberwe are stardust wearing skin, and I couldkiss every molecule that youhave ever been.

The Poem I wrote instead of holding your hand on the train

We are on the train, an Atlantic’s worth of waterpunching the windows every second. You and me.There is this sense of things held back.Prayers asleep in the throat;London in its M road choker and words cut off like roses.There is this sense of swollen underwear andstifling walls, old life stacked to the picture rails.There is this sense of love and absence.Not just us.There is a mum in Kensal Greenwho will not kiss her daughter’s bodybecause the telly said there was a risk of sickness.And there is a dad in Crystal Palace who will not kiss his living sonfor the exact same reason.There is this sense of things held back,of a city where words lie knee deepin the streets, these too-hot-to-hold-in-mouth bitsof speech like,I love you orLet’s fuck orLet’s cuddle instead orDon’t marry herCome with me to Alberquerque,We’ll work nights in a tex mex barand spend days in each others underpantssThere’s old regret blowing down the Circle Line,loose thoughts likeThis baby is a 36 week mistakeOr where did it all go wrong, I was the strongestswimmer in the under 10s.Or I should have stayed in Brighton,Or I should have stayed in Cardiffor ‘your bottom lip the sixth impossiblething that’s happened to me todayand it’s not even breakfast yet, orI think I have an alcohol problem, orI have no idea what I’m doing here.We all pray through gritted teeth.Stuff our cheeks full of marblesand smile so good it hurts.We’re all vomit and chew, you almost neversay I love you and you never say it first.There is this sense of things held back. Fiercely.Of a population taking all the wrong pills on all the wrong days.And I still always check who might be watchingbefore holding your hand on the train.

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