‘Greasy Stranger’/’Ode to Prudishness’/’Ode to Hygeine’: a poem

Greasy stranger in my waiting room
Why are you greasy?
How is it that you and I can co-exist on this earth
when we have such disparate definitions of ‘normal’, and ‘acceptable’ behaviour,
or of personal care or routine?
I know there are people who don’t wash their hair,
I have read about them,
and I know,
I am painfully aware,
from years of serving the public and cleaning up after them in communal toilets,
that most
people do not feel the need to wash their hands
after they have been
and done their business…
More on that, later.
You are in my waiting room.
You are looking around as if birds were tweeting in the surrounding forest,
as if you just strode on stage for the opening of Oklahoma,
as if everything was fine…
I assure you, it is not.
To be so confident and self-assured would be annoying in the most acceptable of circumstances,
but to be so when you are so greasy is just…

He turns my way.
Oohhhhhh no.
He holds my gaze expectantly, as if he is about to ask a question –
I respond politely with my
“Yes, I’m here,”
Instead of a question, he raises his own
at me
me, a normal person,
with normal, clean hair, and modesty.
He says,
Well, fuck me.
For this, I was not prepared.
seeps out of me like a wince at a careless nurse
knocking a bone back into joint with shabby share of grace…
my brow frozen in furrow,
my manners in disbelief
How dare he?
How dare you!
Although, I cannot speak,
albeit from a distance,
via time, space, and now, poetry,
I cannot speak directly to this greasy stranger anymore,
because now, he has broken all the rules,
he has turned civilisation upside down
in acting as if things are not
as they are
How could I predict his next behaviour?
This alien operating system could change at any moment,
indeed I am braced already,
his polite eyebrows are not half as pleasant as mine,
and I have not even plucked today.
No, it is no use,
we shall have to sit in silence, you and I,
I shall not be making small talk with you,
and I shall look affronted at your efforts.
The clock will tick by to your not-soon-enough appointment,
and I will wait


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