There Are Two Men and Other Poems

by Dale Booton

There are Two Men

maybe mid-forties    in a café    their coffees have long been ignored    on a date    bashfully brimming at the warming happiness that spreads throughout them    soothes them    makes them feel comfortable    somehow    a joy at being in the company of one another    or just the satisfaction of having company at all    and then one man raises his hand    halts the conversation    draws back and takes out his phone from his army-dyed jacket    tells the other man that he will love this    takes himself to the images    scrolls past the selfies    the nature shots    the thirst traps taken from wherever they can be found    to a screenshot of a website    something he finds cool    or interesting    or something he has taken to purchase    maybe    two Lego figures    tan-yellow skin bare expect for a thin black harness and skimpy thong    posed like those online with their chests puffed out    an air of cynical adoration about them    a profile that reads no olds no fems no fattie    drifting from one love to the next with fear of falling out of fashion    falling away from the heat two bodies can make    and a nightlife that pretends the days don’t even exist    only those amorous acts committed in the coveted corners of bar-cum-clubs that hold everyone at a score    we have become walking numbers against the backdrop of billions more    against the backdrop of the position we place ourselves in when we frown at the monster in the mirror and ask for it to be kind    but amongst all of those there are these two men    maybe mid-forties    in a café    their coffees have long been ignored    on a date    maybe hoping they have found their one


drenched    I lumbered home against the thuggish moon

the large bulk of him beside me    grinning

proud    somehow    of the act

he had laughed during    the white boulder-teeth stiff

between the busted curtain of his lips

the stain of our fight from a few days before    near-won

he knew then    so he had said    that was why

he had done it    thought I deserved it    thought it had to be

done    an opportunity not to be missed

pushing someone to the brink of drowning

only to then pull them back out again    a baptism

a soul saved from a life of sin    a home

refurbished but unfurnished    like the council house

he had moved into with his mother    and had

quickly taken his fist to his bedroom door

the same way my mother had taken her fist to me

more often than not    to teach me

Warning    Violence

it isn’t always the first punch that draws the blood

it’s the second

and the third

and the fourth

it’s when the boots start stomping at the flesh still bare

still unbroken    until you can’t tell what is fist

and what is foot anymore    until everything before you

is just a smudge on the windscreen as the rain pours

down    recognition is just a too difficult task to complete

and so it’s just the feeling that is noted

the repeated strain on the punchbag

a rage once denied now expelled in abundance

the eyes swell up like beach balls    and you’d love to be laying

on the sand    instead of listening out

for the thuds and the whacks that come before the sharp sobs

of your lover as they try to beg for the end

if it would be allowed

and when the footfalls finally retire from this place    scarper

as fast as they had come only minutes before    you find that

every breath is a struggle    the chest wavers

to rise as the fingers falter    unable to stretch out across

the swollen ground    and then there’s the splintered scratching

as you pull yourself blindly to them    longing for them to reach

back    for their arms to cradle around you    hold

you until the pain numbs    until the salt and the gravel

and the blood is a distant taste replaced with their lips

only to find that they are already holding silence

Dale Booton is a twenty-five year old queer poet from Birmingham. His poetry has been published by Verve in their Diversity anthology, Untitled: Voices, Re-Side, and The Poetry Society. Most recently, his poem ‘Exposure, Part II’, won 2nd Prize in the Young Poet Network’s August Challenge #1. Find Dale on Twitter @BootsPoetry