George & Davis’ Coffee, Oxford, 1996

A blue scarf can’t cover the hickey exploding

eggplant across my neck – and when I haven’t met

his eye in days, not able to shake the snakes


from my face when I see him, he invites me

for coffee. It will only get worse if I delay –

he persists, coiling like acid


in my stomach. When we meet,

he’s bewildered by my apathy,

clutches his love for me. I’m an argument


he thinks he can win – how a body

can be got and once gotten,

the heart with it. But I only said ‘yes’


because you say ‘yes’ when you are oceans away

from home and he has already started anyway –


His fingers coddle his cup of tea, as if

they’re delicate, not strong enough

to bruise. I cord out the words:


we’re better as friends. Any explanation

but the real one. He tells me I’m confused,

will surely come around.


He is patient.

I stare at the bagel by his elbow, his wiry

body still grunting in my head.


I crave the exit

that doesn’t come and never comes

even when we walk out the door.