Constable

Our noses dock in an Eskimo kiss as,
on a surge of crowd, urgent and tidal,
we are flung into a fight neither of us fit.
Your features re-find their stare beyond me.
Panic twitches at the corners of your borrowed
boredom.  Wide pores fleck the ash-purple
blackness of the skin I am almost
kissing.  Your keen breath tastes of fear
in my mouth.

You are the one black man
in uniform, holding a line of fifty: your face
uncovered as your comrades peer through
balaclava blackface, like children through letterboxes
calling for their friends.

Moonfaced and guilty,
I am drunk on a culpable rage which skips
a beat and stumbles to shock at my shock
at your blackness:

I throw the sad fury
of this cocktail into waiting spaces where
the ghosts of Brixton whisper in our ears
of dreadlocks pierced through blooded roots
to Federation pinboards; they weave into our hair
the tales of blistered hands that howled on heating
pipes; and nudge into the light the monkey screeches
of the leering as steel toes softened skin;
the bruiseless blows of black names running
down white pages.

I crumple fear into a shame
that would meet your distant stare; would eat
the grey-haired smirk stood at your side;
would kiss the scar arching its back above
your deep black eye; and wants my arms around
your held breath once again – these questions
crushed between your skin and mine.

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