Touch Starvation

It is safe to go outside so
I brush my cats on the rusting balcony
to avoid their winter coats matting into the fibers of the carpet.
I pull away handfuls of white
watch the morning breeze blow it away like a cottonwood snow
imagine a bird’s nest made only of fur
delicately woven together.

The first symptom is loss of taste so I go to the Latin American market
and buy a jar of habeneros, place
a whole one on my tongue
and if the heat causes tears  to spring to my eyes
then that is a good thing
if the tears lead to the dam breaking that will be a better one
Both mean I am still alive, can still feel.

Even though I have had her for two years now
my former street cat is still touch starved
and I envy her courage to fling herself onto laps
and to rub her face on outstretched hands
to grab onto the affection when she needs it

I still hold myself back
Tell my friends I hate hugs,
go on dates just so I have an excuse
to touch another’s hand.
I’ve promised myself that when the gate lifts
I will throw myself everyone with arms even slightly outstretched
but I think we all know that’s a lie.
I’ve forgotten what voices sound like without the tin
of the phone speaker surrounding them,
what it looks like for someone to move their body fluidly
without the jerking delay of video.

I promise to write letters,
to call my grandmother back,
to let my grandfather tell me again how to get to his house
even though it was the first place outside
my hometown I learned to drive to.

Rachael Gay

RACHAEL GAY is a poet and artist from Fargo, North Dakota. Her work has appeared in journals such as Anti-Heroin Chic, The Laurel Review, Rogue Agent, Ghost City Review, Gramma Poetry, FreezeRay Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review and others as well as the anthology What Keeps Us Here (2019).

Contributions by Rachael Gay