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