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The Hug by Tess Gallagher

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MARGINALIA • SKIP TO THE POEM

1.
My dear friend, you who are here right now reading this, carving a tiny pocket of time for yourself, a small space where you and I and this poem will reside for a moment: I am hugging you.

2.
My dear friend, it has been such a tremendously terrible year. I know it. You know it. And yet here we are. We are reading poetry and we are discovering that we still have a little bit more to give. That life, somehow, refuses to give up, so why should we?

3.
My dear friend, I am holding you and your pain, as you are holding mine. I promise that this place will always be here to embrace you. I am here to enfold you in my arms and let my love reach the corners where your hurts reside. You are not alone.

4.
My dear friend, if it is at all possible to love you, I do.

5.
My dear friend: it is midnight, and it is now Christmas on my side of the world. I am hugging you.

The Hug
Tess Gallagher

A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too.
with our arms around each other.

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
whether the woman is still reading the poem…

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.

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This poem appeared in Dear Ghosts,: Poems by Tess Gallagher, published by Graywolf Press, 2008. Shared here with profound gratitude.

Read more works by Tess GallagherFind books by this poet • Or view my library 

Explore poems in pursuit of: tendernessbeing humanintimacy • Or browse the index

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