You once asked what my greatest fear was. I think
I fobbed you off. It was one of those truth and dare
games we would play on long journeys, unwrapping
the truth about each other like boiled sweets.
You had so much past I hadn’t a clue about,
and I had so much present. I think I can tell you now.
When my nails bite blindly into your sweaty palm,
perhaps a saline drip snaking from veins as potent
as viper venom, I’ll see your face mascara-stained,
panda-eyed, both of us endangered species. I want
you to take my hand palmed against yours,
this hand you used to ball and cover with your own.
Our fingers were fields of butterflies then, painted
and pressed, childish masterpieces proudly displayed
on the fridge. Days as brief as g-strings, collages
created with PVH glue and snippets of glossy magazines.
Soon, you’ll just have those keepsakes left.
A mother’s hoard of relics, the scrunched-up
tissue paper of fake hyacinths falling off like petals,
exercise books, photos, cards. I want you to know
all this in a clumsy, drugged touch that says I’m still
here, I’m still your son. Silent signs that say I
remember picnics with Canadian geese, crocuses along
the Serpentine, beachcombing and discussing divorce.
I want you to gather up all those tubs and pots of 3TC,
wash out those chemicals and make a spaceship.
As easy as AZT. I want you to have the baths I stole,
jumping in first, the scent of So? carried in the spray.
‘I love you’ written in the mirror, with smiley faces
and hearts soon running with condensation.
Bath time was sacred, taking the chance to corner each
other in watery recesses and chat. I want you to shout
when I tell you the truth, not those diluted truths
I used to, squirming among bubbles, hiding moist love
bites that didn’t mean a thing. I thought you needed
to be sheltered, when really it was me.
I want to say it all in just one touch, get up and phone,
tell you my unfounded fear. As he sleeps soundly,
sated, that well-defined chest, rising like a wave.
I want to be safe, in your arms and not his,
as if it will all happen in a flash! Oh no,
it’ll be a slow game, as drawn out as childhood.