Life, in its grandeur,
flickers at the corners of my eyes.
Arms screaming wide,
chests heaving to the skies,
the salty smell of warm sweat
threatening to break out;
I hear a buzz,
a hum, an excuse of being.
Life is elsewhere,
some other time, somebody else,
a fantasy of pixels and skin.
Not me—
this doesn’t count.
And yet the ticker never quells.
All that is left is to observe:
elongated moments,
the relentlessness of nightfall,
others living.
The dead recede
into a memory of features
and stories half-recalled,
less vivid than a dream.
Tomorrow I’ll remember you:
your weathered face, your thinning hair
matted with sweat and anger,
sitting on the kitchen sofa,
the paint chipping off its cheap metal frame,
its florid fabric heavy with the weight
of too many tales unfurled.
And the silence you left behind,
echoing cold off the terrazzo floors.

This time I didn’t visit you
because you aren’t there.
I hate to think of you watching
all this and longing.
It’s the longing, always the longing…
Like I long for this smell
antiseptic as a vinyl hospital hallway
under fluorescent light:
brash, ominous and thumping.
At the end of the hallway
a window looks over the parking lot—
this is what you’re missing:
another day coming to an end,
the hazy twilight of an ugly city.
And this—my anger,
always the anger,
at your not being there.

Ashraf Osman