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Memories of Touch- Poem In A Pandemic

In the protected rooms where people are intubated there are no last hugs and the only thing to touch may be the glass of the window through which you can look at them 


I have touched a broken arm 

to wrap it in a brace that may heal it 

My feet have touched the wet and freshly trimmed grass 

and gathered specks of the earth between my toes 

I have touched some kneaded dough 

some dusty books 

and a dog’s tails and ears 

I have wrapped myself 

in a thin sheet each night 

so that the mosquitoes can’t touch me 

My hands in gloves 

touched the powdery plastic a bit much 

such that the skin on my finger tips 

feels confused 

when my mask touches my nose and mouth 

beads of sweat emerge 

and touch the space between my nose and lips 

such that the steam builds and touches my glasses 

I hate the nurse’s touch 

each time I have been on a hospital bed 

I hate the prickly touch of a needle 

or the cold touch of a probing instrument 

I hate the hot touch of hot leather 

In gloomy buses 

and I do not like touching the thick rexene 

on train berths 

I love touching my mother’s hair when I comb it 

and my brother’s when he rubs my feet 

My friend, when she laughs and pats my back 

and touches me, I laugh too 

My landlady cries when she talks about her illness 

and I touch her face gingerly 

Trying to hold back my tears 

When they didn’t touch me 

for the five days I bled 

My thighs touched each other tight 

Shielding the pain in my abdomen 

All sorts of things touching each other inside 

In the small town I live 

on the coast of a land 

where too many newcomers 

pushed those people away 

who touched too many things for their liking 

no one touches much 

save for those living in the same homes 

wanted and unwanted 

They hold hands 

with whom they love 

and may be an arm around them 

But they don’t touch without anxiety 

if the shade of their skin doesn’t match closely 

In the small town I live 

in a land that claims eternal time 

a few decide the boundaries of touch 

the touching of a meal 

of water, women and land 

of the skin of humans and animals 

of waste and thresholds 

Those who should not be touched 

bear upon them 

the touching of the earth 

that makes life possible 

When I don’t want to be touched 

I retreat into the corner of the room 

with the softest light 

such that only its glow can touch me 

I like the touch of a pulpy fruit 

Of a dried nut 

and of the last layer of oil on my dinner plate 

When I wipe it clean with my fingers 

In a crowd 

I do not mind the touch 

of shoulders rushing against each other 

or of a child tugging at my sleeve 

I do not like however 

the touch of someone pushing me from behind 

touching my waist and my back 

When I dance alone 

I like the touch of my fingers through my hair 

Posing like the glass window is a theatre 

with bright lights 

while dancing with others however 

I do not like to be touched 

Except through their eyes 

They are not touching the dead 

Covered in plastic shrouds 

Mourning faces covered in 

Masks and helmets 

lifting and dropping the dead 

with sanitized hands and writhing souls 

when my grandfather died many years ago 

my little cousin asked 

if we could let him stand tall 

in the corner of the room 

so that he could keep watching us 

and we could keep touching and hugging him 

whenever we wanted 

In the protected rooms 

where people are intubated 

there are no last hugs 

and the only thing to touch 

may be the glass of the window 

through which you can look at them 

I see my father has grown a beard 

But I haven’t touched it 

He has never had a beard 

for me to touch 

Labour on foot 

Have touched the hot concrete 

of our highways and roads 

Their children’s bottoms 

Touching their heads as they walk 

Because the things they touch 

to make in floor shops and workshops 

are not touching their neat plastic bags 

and sealed foil covers 

to touch our hands 

Those who build our homes 

And touched it all over 

Places that we haven’t 

are touching the bottom of their tins 

Like air, dust touches everything 

It floats in through the windows 

And doors, and crevices and holes 

and accumulates over surfaces 

I long to touch 

the face of the one I love 

As I think the need to wipe the dust off his face 

For I haven’t seen him in a long time 

And distances are not only 

aerial, physical or as the crow flies 

they are social 

The dust settling on all our faces 

That can only be wiped away 

By the hands of those we love 

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