It didn’t really help, the story of Othello and Desdemona
and Iago and poison in the ear and though our teacher
taught us about poor Desdemona, bad Iago, Othello escaped
almost blame free, possessed by jealousy, driven into a state
so when my ex became my stalker all the boys in class ignored me
and every lesson he looked through me until the evenings when he
was drunk and in a nightclub and then he’d ring and start to cry
and try to find out where I was or where I’d been, asking why
I wouldn’t listen, why I’d stopped picking up the phone.
Sometimes I answered it with silence, imagined him alone
listening to my nothing. That year of A-Levels, I got myself a stalker
and the police said aren’t you flattered? In the station there was laughter
at the forty phone calls every day for weeks. He said that I’d agreed to
be with him forever, and then I’d changed my mind, what could he do
but become my stalker and wait till darkness fell and slash my father’s tyres
or call fire engines to my house though there was nothing catching fire.
When my ex became my stalker, he convinced my mum to let him in
then locked himself inside the bathroom. It felt like I’d let him win
even though it finished with him in a police cell because of texts
he’d sent with threats and words like kill and guess what happens next
and so the police kept him overnight to think about his actions
and rang his mother who had no idea how any of this happened.
It may have been just a clumsy tackle,
which ended with him on the floor,
his turban unraveled, though now
I think maybe not a turban at all but a patka,
a word I learnt this morning
in my remembering of the shock
of his long black hair that I now discover
is called kesh, the way it spooled downwards,
the red of his cheeks unforgettable,
along with the expert movement
of his hands, gathering in the material,
winding and folding as the whole class
stared and someone sniggered he has girl’s hair
which broke the spell of silence that made us all laugh,
which displaced the shame filling the air
and though the teacher was not
an unkind man, he shouted and made
this gesture I’ve always remembered,
as if he was brushing away something unclean
as the boy knelt on the floor, his hair
pooling round his feet, though I’m not sure
about this now, looking back,
whether I’m embellishing, exoticizing,
though I do remember thinking
how beautiful and being shocked at the thought,
I was still too young to see beauty or grace
in boys, vulnerability in men,
the teacher snapping go and sort yourself out
as if the boy had dropped his pants or worse
and nobody ever mentioned it again
though that school was full of cruelty,
we had it drummed into us,
not to see race, to pretend it wasn’t there,
taught to imagine his hair out of existence.
That a man approached you in a nightclub.
That you were polite at first, then turned your back.
That he insisted on giving you his number.
That you put it in your pocket.
That you danced with your friend all night.
That he stood and watched you.
That you were drinking tequila.
That you licked salt from the back of your hand.
That he was waiting outside.
That when he grabbed your arm and spun you round, you snapped.
That you’ve always had a temper.
That you were not afraid.
That you swung your fist and clipped his jaw.
That he kicked you between the legs.
That he shouted I will end you.
That you fell to the pavement.
That he tried to kick you again.
That he shouted I will end you, I will end you, I will end you.
That a bouncer came and held him back.
That the police were called.
That he vanished into the night.
That you were taken to the station.
That he turned up with his lawyer.
That you still hadn’t sobered up.
That he was smirking.
That it was fresher’s week.
That you were in pain.
That it was hard to explain about his number in your pocket.
That you became afraid.
That you were advised not to press charges.
That you hit him first.
That this all happened many years ago.
That you laugh about it now.
That you say well, I shouldn’t have hit him.
That I both agree and disagree with this statement.
That being our bodies in public is a dangerous thing.
That being in public is a dangerous thing.
That our bodies are dangerous things.
If I’m ever bored of monogamy,
I’ll come and find you,
we’ll go to bed and do
things we would not do
with any other (I will not name
them here.) I don’t blame
you for asking, I blame
you for not asking sooner.
I used to think you were a user.
I thought I knew what a user
was. I thought it was just lust
but you were the best
at some things, the best
that I’ve known. How we pretended
none of it mattered! It’s splendid
to look back on it now, it was splendid
to know you. If I’m ever bored of monogamy
I know who to turn to.
Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She won a Northern Writers' Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010. Her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. She is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University and is working on her second collection.
On sexual pessimism in two essays, two stories and four poems. Featuring illustrations by John Slade/HYT Studio. The print edition includes contributions by Stoya, Sasha Bonét, Sam Riviere, Lara Mimosa Montes and Wayne Koestenbaum.