Photo by Tom Adam.

LOVE. Poetry from Tanaka Mhishi





Long Distance


I love you. It waxes and wanes.
Some days I imagine your face and it’s like
a deep ticking inside me, a wasted muscle.
Then, palming apples in the supermarket
my love for you will shake me by the
shoulders, drain my chest of oxygen.
Fruit rolls in the aisles.
Seeing your face at the station
I wait for a pang of want. Nothing.
It is only later, when your head moves,
birdlike to music, or smile slashes open
your moonscaped face, that I have to clutch
at my own thighs. Sometimes your typing hands
get me so hot I want to pour myself right
into you. Sometimes I want to smash
the keyboard. When you’re here
I look forward to unshared
bathwater and less washing up.
Then I am sat, peeling sweet clems
or clipping valerian leaves for tincture
and there is a river running along my spine,
running like a current, running like a song, running
like a lamplight through the gloom, and the floor
falls out of my love for you, and I remember
we are stardust wearing skin, and I could
kiss every molecule that you
have ever been.



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


We are on the train, an Atlantic’s worth of water
punching 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 and
stifling 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 Green
who will not kiss her daughter’s body
because the telly said there was a risk of sickness.
And there is a dad in Crystal Palace who will not kiss his living son
for the exact same reason.
There is this sense of things held back,
of a city where words lie knee deep
in the streets, these too-hot-to-hold-in-mouth bits
of speech like,
I love you or
Let’s fuck or
Let’s cuddle instead or
Don’t marry her
Come with me to Alberquerque,
We’ll work nights in a tex mex bar
and spend days in each others underpantss
There’s old regret blowing down the Circle Line,
loose thoughts like
This baby is a 36 week mistake
Or where did it all go wrong, I was the strongest
swimmer in the under 10s.
Or I should have stayed in Brighton,
Or I should have stayed in Cardiff
or ‘your bottom lip the sixth impossible
thing that’s happened to me today
and it’s not even breakfast yet, or
I think I have an alcohol problem, or
I have no idea what I’m doing here.
We all pray through gritted teeth.
Stuff our cheeks full of marbles
and smile so good it hurts.
We’re all vomit and chew, you almost never
say 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 watching
before holding your hand on the train.







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