At Selam’s

Alan King

for Tosin

My heart might have been
a candle the way it flickered.
We were in a club below U Street
dancing to Afrobeat.

Wanted to say those three words
that night. You painted
your face with white dots along
your nose and forehead.

All I knew of you then
could fit inside the head
of a flame. And I might?ve been
a lantern glowing from what
I wanted to tell you.

But those words were lost
in the roll of your hips when
you lifted your hem to the side
as if what pulsed from speakers
bared its horns before charging at us.

They were lost amongst silhouettes
knocked around by the rhythm;
lost in a room of dumb bodies
the DJ jerked like a puppet master.

That night you grinded my back into
the brick wall and took my tongue
the way a tsunami overtakes
a small boat.

That night I was haunted
by worst-case scenarios?
a needle scratching
the vinyl record,
its waxy silence.

Last updated September 27, 2022