Ma’ salaam, he’d say, for a cheerio,
brought from Egypt, his National Service days.
Ma’ salaam with a clumpy hug, a grumpy kiss,
awkward, hating goodbyes, as he did.
When they came round, her warm hello
was a request. Nice cup-i-tea?
Her ma’ salaam was cheerio. Why be exotic
when plain will do? Kisses and hugs were few.
Who’d be parents, eh? Knowing what their kids
would put them through?
Muddling through, doing what they don’t know how,
and at the end, a ma’ salaam, a cheerio?
It hardly seems to fill a cup. But take it,
take it, knowing that the cup of love
is like that floating iceberg tip where what you see
shows nothing of the depth of it.
in the night-lit crowd
two men a chain a woman
no witness but one
Something had been started. Difficult to see beyond the scuffling crowd, craning, stretching, shifting in between, one stepping back, another pushing through, and the woman heading towards the group, meaning to pass by on her own planned route, was the one who saw the chain – heavy-duty – it would need a hefty haul into its swing – slipping down from the man’s sleeve to slither through his palm, one foot moving back for balance, and his focus trained on the back of the head of another, one clearly unaware of being singled out in the crowd. What thought possessed her to intervene? To divert her path a step or two to bring her close behind him, and in a hitherto unpractised – unconsidered – move, to grasp the neck of his coat and yank it down, step swiftly by with just one glance to capture his trapped arms, his confusion, his sideways-on frustrated frown…?
Lost now, I suspect,
not seen these dozen years.
Enchanting, the rough vivid lines
creased rouches of rose petals.
Remembered too, there was
uncertainty to the roundness of the bowl
beneath the neck, chill light
of a winter afternoon
falling harsh this side,
the other, certainty
seeing the light now
– seeking the light now –
less and less. And Lily’s hands
waxy, slipping along
these clumsy crayons, yet leaving
behind them an undiminishable brightness
of lit blue, purple, orange, such red
roses, the green of their leaves
pulsing still, still
responding to her breath.
Just someone with a sad edge
who sat beside me, tic of a smile,
chose me for some inapt reason
to share a few words though
they seemed hard-found.
Minutes, fifteen maybe, at the most,
and in that time (was it taken from
or added to his own?) told me
how his life is now.
Occasional, lonely, the choices he makes,
his small achievements and desires.
Why me? Innocuous, perhaps, more likely
than synergy. I absorbed it all,
nodded here, smiled there.
Nothing changed. No one was saved,
no great deed was done. Nothing was found
or lost, nothing given in this bare exchange,
not a name, not even a shake of hands.
And I was glad of him, his choosing me,
our sharing minutes with no outcome,
no duty to connect. I need reminding,
sometimes, of the simple things.
Humanity. A reason to exist.