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Touch Me (With Rubber Gloves)

Nicole Catarino

Touch me

through a rubber-slick partition,

with hands that smell of the operating room floor.

Could we perform surgery on your duvet?

Have the hospital sheets been washed this week?

Take your fingers,

alcohol-dampened and sanguine red,

and hover, cradle, the ghost of my cheeks.

There’s a fault line of earth beneath your fingernails. Your palms reek of metal rust. I know they’ve held more than just me today.

Kiss me:

mouth puffed with spearmint fumes,

lungs clenched on shallow exhales.

I’ve made a list of reasons not to love you and they all start with their scientific

name. There’s a colony of life that lives on your tongue that doesn’t care for me

the way you do. You promise you’ll never hurt me, but what should I believe when

you touch your smile with the same fingers that opened the door?

Lead me to bed—

baring nothing but teeth—

and leave me to rot at the foot.

I stand before you: the trembling effigy of The Lover, brushed only by the

window’s breath, caressed only by the evening sun as the outline of my shadow

drapes itself across your lap. All I can offer is an exhibit at arm’s length, free of

charge, to look, but not to touch.

(please don’t leave)

Please don’t touch.

You say my name

like patience worn sheer,

like hands rubbed raw from ritual

and the rift between us yawns.

The precipice crumbles. You extend, forward,

trembling with exertion, light

haloing the crest of your head.

Trust me, you beg. And in another

life, another mind, I could fall.

But here, to close the gap,

I’d have to take your hand.

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