And ever ache




Dawn breaks unlike the human need to be touched. On
wards, when hands don’t shake, they fold. The same
again tonight; making rubber gloves last. All wrapped
in various plastics, a second skin that still my heart
reverberates through. Shut the door between function
and emotion.

Texting my mother on toilet breaks. Staff room full of
buzzcuts and acquired germophobia, a collective
muffled voice. Scratching itches with elbows,
everything with elbows. Fingerprints levelled from
antibac, our affinity borne of mutual risk; of witness.

On the outside I am counter to visible society—bug of
the open air. Picnic lovers and some buddies still
gripping on to handlebars, in spite of it all. In public,
hands don’t shake, just applaud.

It’s quickest to cut through the cemetery. The irony is
not lost on me, in fact it’s all I have to hold. Green
gravestones and the urge to bleach.

I whistle bacteria through the streets at prescribed
distance, my inadvertent imprint for the transient
moment. Text my mother, rote jargon of acceptance or
relief. I am aware that I am changed.

Furnishings bleed into a mirrored context; home
consisting of hospital bed, hygiene apparatus, sluice.
The frailty of lungs, essential role of courier. The
absolute satire of desire amid disintegration.

Gorgeous knock of an ungloved fist.

The outline I’ve come to crave, unsevered from my own
by movement of a hinge. She is standing about a foot
away, helmet at her side. Other hand raised to just
below the chin, as we’ve come to practice. I admire the
naked palm. It is almost sensual.

Skin quietly clicks as our fingers interlace, thin
membranes conversing. Clammy and undressed, like
twin wounds. My hands never shake in yours, one of us

See you tomorrow, replies the other. She ungrips and
turns, leaving at the threshold my online takeaway
order and a feeling of vacancy. Us key workers, a
commonality after all.

With similar embrace, I take the knotted bag to cotside
recognising myself in the polythene. The strange
heat of parallel experience; I am fed on its perpetuation.

Between duvets, hands just clasp each other, whisper
something like prayer. There, there.

Remnants of consciousness segue into a fragmented
yearning. When the impulse to turn things right has
passed, where will we be?

The human need to be touched. In this way, I can reach
it myself.

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