Please do not pee in the sink

Issue FiveIssue Five PoetryPoetry

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By Ali Whitelock


in the cafe with coffee cups for lampshades

and the sign that says please do not pee

in the sink we take an outside table

we have been coming here for years. We consider

this table to be ours. Today there is an unexpected

madman at the table nest to us he is leaping

to his feet every five minutes kneeling

in the middle of the footpath and praying

to allah

i tell my husband i think we should go

that the praying man int he unfashionable

blouson is-i will confess-scaring

me a little my husband tells me i’m being

ridiculous like four years ago when the spider

lay in wait for me in the toilet

and he had to remove it before

i could pee and every time since i have gone

i take a torch scan the front and back of the door the inside

of the toilet roll tubes and under the wicker

basket where i keep the earth choice toilet

cleanser and the eco friendly air freshener

we always bring our dog to this cafe

the internet tells us muslims

do not like dogs they make their prayers

impure it is their version of us peeing

in the sink our coffees have no sooner

arrived till the unexpected madman

is down on his knees again and i leak involuntary

squeals like air escaping from the mouth

of an over-inflated balloon and my imagination

made fertile b too frequent watering convinces me

his unfashionable blouson packed with explosives

and post-detonation there’ll be skimmed cappuccino

froth and body parts scattered the length of glebe point road.

In all the years we’ve been coming

here the daily special has never changed something

about fettucini in a mushroom sauce with pesto

and a hint of dijon-not dijon mustard– just dijon

as though the chef might wear a french beret

and cycle to work with a string of onions hanging

off the handlebars of his bicycle next time

we came to the cafe the unexpected madman

was there and the time after that and the time after that

and every five minutes he’d be down on his knees.

Months passed like this.

Days drifted.

We kept coming.

He kept praying.

Nothing exploded.

Eventually we came to enjoy watching mothers

with strollers wide berth him and dog walkers

drag reluctant puppies to the other side of the road

then one day he rose made eye contact pointed

at our dog said, ‘yoouurr dog verry beeg’

we nodded.

He smiled.

Next time we came he offered his hand we shook

it bought him coffee shared out fags

months passed like this.

Days drifted.

sometimes when i’d come alone he’s ask-verr is hussbant?

i’d tell him he’s at work

buy him a coffee he’d smile point at hector

‘yourrr dog verry beeg’

more months passed like this.

More days drifted.

One day he tells me he is looking

forrr job asks me for two bucks i give him five in his country

he is accountant his english skills are poor i worry

how he will manage i’ve taken to minding

his stuff while he’s down on this knees i make sure

no one touches his unfashionable

blouson his lighter his fags his yale lock key yesterday

when i arrived he wasn’t there

i looked up glebe point road saw him in the distance

walking towards the cafe hair combed, high-vis vest

working boots he stopped at my table pressed a crumpled

five dollar note note into my palm cupped

his hands warmly around mine ‘forrr yoouu’

he said ‘i hefffff job now’ and he smiled

his charming middle eastern smile pointed

at hector ‘yoouurr dog verry beeg’ he said.

I couldn’t have agreed more.





(First published in Ali Whitelock’s debut poetry collection, ‘and my heart crumples like a coke can’ (Wakefield Press, 2018).)

Artwork by Kathryn Lamont.