The Look of Love (a black father poem)

THE LOOK OF LOVE

I

The Public eye

facial perception of me:

Fierce, mad, dangerous.

They think

I have,

a certain look,

that says:

I don’t do – love and affection.

I only do –protection.

 

II

A jam-packed

train carriage.

Juddering, jarring bones.

A space –

for my girlfriend.

She moves to sit down.

A man sneaks into the seat.

I glance at him.

It is not a stare.

I repeat,

It is not a stare.

He gets up,

moves away,

eyes gazed down.

‘What was that?’

‘What?’

‘The look? The expression on your face?’

The one

as if

I would

take the long route –

put my hand down his mouth,

past molars

down his oesophagus,

take a left or right,

rip out his heart

through his neck,

present it to you,

instead of the shortcut through

rib-cage intercostal muscles?

Yes, that one.

You, my dear

Girlfriend, fiancé,

future mother of my children,

are mistaken.

That’s A look, not THE look.

because

the

only

consequence

of

failure

is

aching feet,

a journey feeling longer

than it needs to be.

 

III

Our child:

A boy –

Is full of wide-eyed wonder.

Innocence.

He says:

‘Rainbows are wonderful.’

Every day

Is a sunny day,

even in our Endz.

He says:

‘We have the best library in town.’

He goes there

after school

to explore new words.

New ideas:

Press on palm-centre, fingers will ball.

‘Holding hands isn’t cool, dad.

 

IV

A nice day for a walk?

One foot in front of the other.

Kids ask, ‘Where are you going? Can we come too?’

It’s a great day for a stroll.

Traffic lights:

Only cross when there’s a green man,

Precious ones.

Step:

Over the black and white lines.

Step:

The garden hedges look fine.

Step:

There are so many cars about,

can’t be good for breathing or plants.

Step:

‘What are lungs made of?’

Step:

‘How do they carry oxygen around the body?’

Stop:

That’s an interesting question, son.

You can find the answer from me, or the library.

‘We have one of the best in town.

Step:

There’s John’s corner shop.

Indian.

Brown skin, Bradford accent.

4 kids,

one adopted

but you wouldn’t know which is which.

Maybe pop in for an ice-lolly later.

Detour?

Sun is shining.

My boy

likes rainbows

x-boxes

libraries

superheroes

rolling down stairs in suitcases with his mates –

I can’t save him from that kind of foolishness.

‘Where are you going?’ More kids ask.

I smile.

It’s a nice day for a walk, a stroll, a meander.

 

V

I knock on a door.

Me and my son enter.

He waves to the followers behind.

I shoo them away.

Half go, half stay, trying to peer through the curtains.

This is the start or the end of a journey.

I sit.

I have

THE LOOK

Which says:

We can take the long route

or the short route

to a resolution.

Whether I have blood on my hands afterwards is optional.

Always optional.

Because I know the consequences.

My son knows

all the colours of the rainbow,

goes to the library

to learn new words like

pulmonary artery, pericardial cavity.

There are other words,

harsh ones, hate-filled ones

I don’t want him to understand

or know the meaning of, in his heart.

I breathe in.

I say:

‘Your kid,

has racially abused mine,

outside the place

he gets his books.

What are you

going to do about it?’

 

VI

I do not know

what the people sitting opposite me, see:

A caring conscientious human being?

Superhero, supervillain or nemesis?

Someone who is willing to rip out organs if necessary,

with very few words?

I know

the power of speech, the nuance of fists.

I know

chlorophyll is plant haemoglobin.

I know

there is a spectrum of light we can’t see –

just like mental wounds, internal bruising.

I am black.

I am man.

I am a father.

In my world:

Love, affection

and protection

are the same damn thing.