It came out of nowhere.
All teeth and tussle.
Shouting like huge crowds behind him.
It stamped on his bones.
It shovelled his muscle.
Alone in a clearing where no one would find him.
He writhed in its jaws:
his lovers flashed past him.
The routine, the dinners, the dishes.
He felt the dense forest
close in and enchant him.
Cleansed of his longing for kisses.
He rose like a wreck on a winch.
Swaying and derelict.
Suddenly boy again. Soon to be man.
All of his grief was a burden to keep
deep down in his guts.
And he turned and he ran.
Fighting with shadows.
Swinging at birds as they laughed.
Too shaken to hate what had happened.
All that he'd learned to be true
fell to pieces.
He stared at the sun till it blackened.
Watching his body like it wasn't his.
He pushed his new shape
to the edge of the clearing.
And found the red road
that led out of the city.
And screamed until no one could hear him.
He journeyed for days,
until he was purified.
Feasting on tree bark and roadkill and petrol.
Macho man; ate cars for breakfast.
Natural man; skin the same texture as cactus.
Hands grew wild and dextrous and flew at his side like two kestrels.
His feet became tougher than limpets
his eyes became keener than knives,
his breath melted padlocks.
He heard a leaf falling
from five miles away,
and he moved like a dog on a ham hock.
All knowledge was his
and he learned the old words
for the things that he saw. He spoke out their names.
He learned to forget
his hurt and regret
he walked on his own, legs like two flames.
He grew dirty and tired and thirsty,
at the next town
he decided to stop at the bar.
And he saw then: no matter how far you have come,
you can never be further than right where you are.
A circle. Shoulders and hard chests and arms like rosary beads
from push-ups before bed, eyes narrowed.
We wear our hoods up. We talk in couplets.
Two lines at a time and my heart has
never been calmer than here,
in the cypher.
I stare at my trainers and listen to deep voices
throwing out lyrics through smoke.
I know I can do this much better than them.
I can feel it. Something like stillness,
but nothing like stillness.
It creeps up my throat like water creeps down it.
It spreads itself over my tongue.
My shoulders are squared.
I move like the boys,
I talk like the boys,
but my words are my own.
And when I unleash them, my eyes widen and focus.
The streetlights stop flickering, just for a moment,
the arrogance prickles like sweat at my temples,
I'm moving as if I have never been gentle.
The kinder among them look at me sideways.
Smiling, shaking their heads,
I feel it all through me.
It's shaking my legs.
I push my fist against theirs, my soft arms are clasped,
I'm embraced like a man, my back slapped,
and my heart all the time getting faster.
The beatboxer nods his respect.
And I'm feeling bigger than
all of these buildings.
I wait for my turn again,