6 Notions of Intimacy
by Alfian Sa'at.
Holding hands at the back of a bus,
You provoke the engine's choked outrage,
The hellish heat under your seats.
The scandalized sunlight is heaping
Veils of modesty on your rousing laps.
The forbidding signs are glaring at you.
One slashes a cigarette but the one that makes
You laugh is that which bars a limp-wristed hand
Waving a hanky. (That stands for No Littering?)
In front of you are rows of heads aimed homewards.
Two men holding hands, even the graffiti on
The seat that says: "Jenny is a damn good fuck"
Pales to schoolboy whimsy. Well, squeeze
His hand a little harder. Not because you
Don't care but care too much to let him
Ride beside you with his naked fingers un(g)loved.
Bored as hell you were.
In your school uniform,
In that cubicle sitting on the lid
Waiting for footsteps, penumbras,
Tricklings, coughs. You
Started reading the erotica
Of vandals and between
"I never cum so much in my life"
And "It was so big and juicy"
You spotted, in faint ink:
"He never loved me."
You're still not sure
What made you think:
"Maybe I could." What made you
Run out of that toilet haunted
By the idea that in all the times
You let a stranger unzip you
With his teeth or nervously
Kiss your appendicitis scar
You had never allowed anyone
(His handwriting, untidy,
A left-hander?) come
That close to you.
In this city, never say you have
Witnessed a dawn until you see
It break on someone's body.
The birdcall of his eyelashes.
His Adam's apple not something
Lodged in a sinner's throat but
Still suspended from that innocent bough.
Spit-dew drying off his pores.
Soon that golden heat pouring in
Through the windows will challenge
The warmth of his body and like
Blown glass in a furnace his tongue
Will unstick itself from the gum of his dreams.
At that moment, it is all you can do from
Seizing the daybreak of his skin only to find
The night buds of his nipples -
You let him in.
He said it was best that way.
Skin on skin was what he said.
The feeling is better, come on.
He had a clean face, his stubble was blue.
His navel was clean. (an innie)
You could see his teeth in the dark.
It's more intimate was what he said.
Nothing could be more intimate
Than what you let in that night.
That now whispers a goodnight
Before delivering fevered kisses.
That will soon send visible
Love-bites all over your body.
You think about that gate that
Let it all in, how it was rimmed
Like the sorest of his wounds.
His nickname was "sobriquet"
And when you messaged him
You felt the privilege of one
Who knew what it meant.
Never once did you have to ask
Hello are you still there.
And never once did he type
The letters oic or hmmm.
Like the ancient astronomers
You joined his words from
Point to point and charted
The constellation of his face.
You were surprised at how false
The glimmer of love was,
To skip light-years and arrive
So sudden on your screen.
Without plowing through
Galaxies where words had no
Meaning but their own loneliness.
Or rather, where loneliness
Had no meaning but words.
When we kiss, is that close enough?
When I lie on top of you there is this
Hollow between our bodies and then
When we sweat it smacks is that
Close enough? When we hold hands
Under the sheets as if anticipating
The bed swallowing us up?
Love, take this: the times when I
Felt intimate with you was when I
Found your wallet in my house with that
Bus pass photo and that lost hair parting.
The frowning boy who had only one thing
On his mind: how his smile could
Escape the camera's flash and be lost to
Unrecorded moments before and after.
I felt intimate, when browsing through
The photo album I found you as a
Five-year old clapping your hands
Beside a fountain to make me wonder
Why I was not there.