Poetry Feature: The silent journey between strangers in a subway by Abdulrazaq Salihu

To every lover I’ve grown to unlove;
I burn my conscience like a thin wildfire.         

There’s a separate silence between 
The weight of this slim quiet

Between lips of all the silent people 
In this subway and every stranger

I want to hug wants to hug me back
Like a part of a psalm eighteen 

Holding onto a psalm nineteen 
But, to be a stranger in America 

Is to yearn for a thousand hugs
In silence; is to wish to kiss

Strange boys in illegal clubs;
Is to wish to let a weak part of an 

Ocean tide rinse you clean of this queerness;
Is to be so close to a woman 

That would love you, yet
Let her skin color determine your relationship 

This is America, & you’re only given

What you ask for; yet,  
You’re only allowed to ask for  

All the wrong things you already own:
Your Gbagyi accent; your thick dark mole, 

Your empathy, the thing around your neck—
The small tag of slavery.

Earlier today, on a slow-paced journey,
In a subway with brown broken angels,

I asked for a skin colour to cloak my accent 
I asked the gap between myself and the blonde 

Woman with a thick gap between her two front teeth
To bring us closer, I asked the silence to [ ]  us;

The silence mistakes my silence for fear and I pass.
For this, I water my right fist for all the boys

Whose left cheek were unfortunate enough to taste
The wrong prayer I’ve grown all my life holding onto.

Five minutes to my stop, loneliness buffs out of 
Strangers mouth and it’s this communal hug 

We all seek; this slow love song to leave a strangers mouth 
To come flourish before our scattered accent & rhythm & loneliness. 

I shift back into my body and 
Let the night carefully arrange the stars to my favour;

Let my shadow hug all the silence between us strangers.
I offer this child a chocolate bar and his mother slaps my hand,

There’s a dark cloud beneath her left eye, I’m too human to ignore 
So today, a stranger hugs a stranger on the subway

Every passenger doesn’t care in silence—every other passenger wants this hug,
But, this is America so we unhug 

We do not say a thing, we let the silence win,
We let the child sob and the chocolate rot in its floor silence.

On a scale of night to sadness, I would walk straight to a girl
With just the right gap between her teeth for my own to fill

I would hug her; the night would hold
Us in her embrace—in perfect harmony like strangers.


Abdulrazaq Salihu, TPC I  is an award winning poet from Nigeria. He has his works published/forthcoming in Bracken Magazine, Brittle Paper, MASKS Literary Magazine, The Kalahari Review, The Pine Cone Review, Better Than Starbucks, Jupiter Review, Rogue Agent, and elsewhere. He won the MASKS Literary Magazine poetry award, BPKW poetry contest, Nigerian prize for teen authors, Splendors of Dawn poetry contest, and more. He is a member of the Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation and a poetry intern at Eboquills. He passionately loves flowers and can be found on Twitter @Arazaqsalihu 

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