Cipher: on meeting a man in uniform

I am reconciled to the fact that this may go nowhere.


He was tall enough to be able to look down and to the side at me. I was aware that his  wearing of medals wasn’t normal but this wasn’t the uppermost thought in my mind. He seemed composed of a fortifying mix of nervousness tucked inside confidence. And what a strong handshake. I’m rolling it over and over in my mind to generate a friction.


There is a simplicity to men like this, that I enjoy and that they may not deserve. The simplified life of someone who can cite “duty.” I must design the right response to him in my mind, in order to be fair to myself.


I know of a Muslim woman who has three year old triplets and a five year old. She was left by her husband, just before she gave birth to the children, and who now has taken her to court for access, having muddied her reputation. She was in a refuge. Where are her medals? Is one this?


I have to look again at the OED meanings of cipher n… 2. a secret message. 3. The key to a secret message. 4. an obsolete name for zero. 5. any of the Arabic numerals…the Arabic system of numbering as a whole 6. a person, or thing of no importance; nonentity.


It wasn’t condescending, how he looked down and to the right. More like he was another species trying to understand mine. Now I remember that he made a joke about strategies. I see him as older reading books with a conservatory packed with memories. What was most beguiling was his confidence that bullied into the air and left no room for us to think.


About grahamcliffordpoet

Graham is an award winning poet, based in London. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with an MA in Creative Writing, and has since published nationally and internationally, winning many awards and performing at some of the most prestigious and well known Literary Festivals. His debut collection, The Hitting Game, is published by Seren.
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