Two Poems

By Kathleen Bryson

Touch No Evil, Say All the Monkeys

You can choose not to see the posters or the placards
as you hide in situ take vitamin D tablets
And even if you deny it you can hear the domestics
pandemic sirens all night long some hands
slopping together on Thursday nights
and if you’re lucky you can hear a thump within your chest
You can taste your own cooking
you’ve been dependent on for at least five months
and the blood iron in your saliva
when your stomach hurts from stress
You can smell the neighbours’ barbecue smoke
they’re not social distancing and you resent them
cigarettes from the flat below in the
garden and they say it’s airborne
and if you can smell the
Marlboro molecules on the air
then what else can reach you
You can’t touch anybody

Eleven Minutes (Saying Goodbye in the Middle of a Pandemic)

I.

Well, you have never felt such apertures before,
as when you stand here, streamy-eyed
and watch while the other confirms the ticket.
As the feeling after hours of weeping
the gnawing is not new for you, just thicker.
Your eyes dripped this morning as you made love
An eerily nugatory feeling.
Bad-bad bonbons.
If you can swallow through the nougat.
You smile to make the other one laugh.
If you’re remembered that way,
you’ll feel it’s a good way to be remembered.
Through your head some clock is chanting
14 minutes, 13 minutes, 12 minutes
You swing your knee against the check-in desk, pain,
and duck eye-contact with those waiting next in line.
The other thinks, now I’m getting on a plane,
I’m leaving, maybe I’ll come back,
maybe I won’t,
now I’m walking on the plane.

II.

My name is Neither and it’s Nor.
I am back upon this shore.
An exit, a long wait by the baggage carousel.
The animals spin round and round,
luggage camels with bright-painted eyes.
Such long eyelashes.
I want to jump up on one of those pegasuses,
or a giraffe, and ride away.
I’ll steal your bags with me to Timbuktu or back to Alaska.
I change seats; I delay flights;
I am arriving from the United Liminal States of America.

Kathleen Bryson received her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology from University College London. She studies prejudice and empathy, and currently is a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University. She is the published author of over 100 fiction pieces, including 3 novels of literary fiction. The most recent novel is The Stagtress, published in 2019 by Fugue State Press. An artist-writer-filmmaker, she has had 10 solo art exhibitions, including a show on space cosmologies called Once Upon a Spacetime at the Royal Institution in 2019, and has just completed her second directed feature film Baked Alaska (her home state). Check out www.kathleenbryson.com.

Touch No Evil, Say All the Monkeys

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