Juliet in the Hijab
She’d promised them gangs,
riots in the streets, revenge:
Eastenders in Verona, she had said.
Even subsidised the costs to turn
the spot away from their estate
and focus eyes beyond the flats.
Act One, they cannot see beyond
men dressed in tights, swollen
codpieces, breasts squeezed
skyward by tight-fitting bodices,
and titters rub away the age-thin
patience of matinee habitués.
Act Two, they launch a fresh attack
across the generation gap:
an armoury of drinks and snacks
that snap back disapproving heads,
assailed by bottles’ snorts
and wrappers’ insistent whispers.
Act Three, too much to bear their teacher
throws her hands up in despair,
and in the darkness pulls her pupils out.
They do not need cajoling; their yawns
are wide enough to swallow time:
all that is, save one, Jahidah.
She sees a sister on the stage,
who reaches out to take her hand
to tell a story she understands.
She sits wide-eyed, in her back-row seat,
and though there is no one around her,
she knows that she’s alone no longer.