Noli Me Tangere
We avoid alley, ginnel, snicket, jigger,
favour wider lanes in rural areas
for dubious doses of fresh air, sun.
Handshakes, hugs are supplanted
first by elbow bumps, then clasping
our own hands across our chests,
gestures of intent, no eye contact.
A raised palm declares touch me not.
A nod while staring at our own feet.
Perfume from that girl trails
behind for yards, sneaks sideways
up nostrils, stirs unease, disgust.
Late night treks to supermarkets,
scarf bandit-like around mouth
and nose. Gloves, strict time limits,
bills kept below the swipe amount,
breath held at checkouts, gasping
to the door as if already a case.
Fingers wagging through glass:
Leave it on the step, sign for me.
Spraying deliveries and doorknobs.
Neural networks retrained
to ban fingers from facial orifices,
handwashing to Happy Birthday,
Jerusalem, God Save the Queen
or Killing in the name of. Asking
will these hands never be clean?
Sharon Larkin’s poems regularly appear in anthologies, magazines and on-line. Interned at the Food Factory was published by Indigo Dreams in 2019. She runs Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham and the Good Dadhood on-line poetry project. https://sharonlarkinjones.com https://gooddadhood.com