Exposure, Part II

by Dale Booton

For Wilfred Owen

Contains strong language

our bodies ache    on the streets where we rattle plastic cans
for change    we watch the flocks of low drooping eyes
scuttle by    like brambles in the north wind we
have become part of the scene    patient    hopeful    crying out
        but nothing happens

on the corner a preacher belts God’s wrath on queers    I can hear
the snare tone of his voice as he echoes verse from the
tatty bible he clutches    there are few who stop and listen
to the dull rumour of God’s war on fags    and wonder
        what are we doing here

across the street a man tugs the last cloud from his cigarette
lets his eyes wander up the pleated skirt of a
woman at the bus stop    she fans herself from the wet heat
her eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of that mottled red transport
        but nothing happens

the man catches a peek of the sun’s irrevocable innocence
in her bronzed shoulders    then looks across at us
at our banner    chews his distaste as if it is milk freshly off
cocks his mouth as if ready to fire his first warning shot
        but nothing happens

leaves collect in the street    band together to line the kerb
like bouncers    we are the impatient sober waiting
for entry to watch our brothers and lovers dancing with
winged expressions of surrender    so this is where we end up
        is it that we are dying

Johno asks Wilf should we call it a day    stares down into his near
empty can    at the piss-poor pennies dripped from unfeeling
hands    says they don’t give a shit about us    never have
says if they did they’d save us    says we don’t have nobody but us
        we turn back to our dying

a newspaper reads Britain threatened by gay virus plague    spits
our invasion of their land    shrieks the contagion of
our love    lauds the purification of our dying    smirks at
our ashes spilling like mountains disintegrating beneath their youth
        for love of God seems dying

tonight we will drag our ghosts home to our one already measuring
their hole in the ground    jokes I probably shouldn’t put on
any weight else I won’t fit    smiles like the crushed tablet taken
twice daily    says when we’re all gone    that’s when they’ll notice
        but nothing happens