Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Tim Liardet read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes..
She climbed with the weeping boy
into the sleeves and legs of his clothes. He crouched
and acquiesced, and what he thought was his hand
reaching to pat the soft part of his abdomen
was in fact hers—her foot was in his shoe—so it was hard
to fathom if those scarlet toenails belonged to him
or her, and which body musk seeped out
from which armpit, which thought originated first
in his head or her encompassing head behind,
so little the lapse, the spaces, between them.
When he dressed himself, it was her hands that reached
around to each bone button, her fingers which clipped
the absurd butterfly to his collar. When she climbed out
and left a chilly shape where she had been
he felt his spine was corrugated and exposed,
every follicle of him, every single blond hair
always listening for her approach,
listening in all directions, from every hair.
When she climbed back, he could no longer feel
the coarse stitching in the seams of his shirt
nor any sensation in his feet at all
and no sensation in his hands or in his lips.
Where her warm belly brushed against his sacrum
he smelt of her cologne, and it was only
when he tried to shift his shoulders sideways
and fidget his body into a space
that her long arms folded across him from behind
and drew him back toward her, at which stage
they seemed to wrestle together in a canal sack,
one trying to keep the other where he was
by pulling the collar tighter against his neck,
one trying to escape from his shirt.