Sunday, 20 May 2012


A woman is reading a poem on the street 
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too. 
with our arms around each other. The poem 
is being read and listened to out here 
in the open. Behind us 
no one is entering or leaving the houses. 

Suddenly a hug comes over me and I’m 
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light 
off to make itself comfortable, then 
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding 
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn’t 
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he 
would have. He looks homeless because of how 
he needs. “Can I have one of those?” he asks you, 
and I feel you nod. I’m surprised, 
surprised you don’t tell him how 
it is – that I’m yours, only 
yours, etc., exclusive as a nose to 
its face. Love – that’s what we’re talking about, love 
that nabs you with “for me 
only” and holds on. 

So I walk over to him and put my 
arms around him and try to 
hug him like I mean it. He’s got an overcoat on 
so thick I can’t feel 
him past it. I’m starting the hug 
and thinking, “How big a hug is this supposed to be? 
How long shall I hold this hug?” Already 
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my 
shoulders, my hands not 
meeting behind his back, he is so big! 

I put my head into his chest and snuggle 
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes 
into him. He stands for it. This is his 
and he’s starting to give it back so well I know he’s 
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly 
we stop having arms and I don’t know if 
my lover has walked away or what, or 
if the woman is still reading the poem, or the houses – 
what about them? – the houses. 

Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing. 
But when you hug someone you want it 
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button 
on his coat will leave the imprint of 
a planet in my cheek 
when I walk away. When I try to find some place 
to go back to. 

Tess Galagher