The suede has been left for moths
in the squeaking back closet
where there’s never any light
and only sea air sulks
through the splintered cracks
while the moths’ eggs hatch.
To touch it would be to feel
the sandpaper-dry cut of age.
To bend it, to try putting it on,
would only tear its back
at the penny-thin shoulders.
If she saw it, she would smell
its two-dollar collar like they were back,
looking up on new year’s eve, 1986
with the rich, reaching buildings
and the ball and his mouth
round and apple red, ready to drop.
If she saw it, she would think
to repair it with oils, work
with her hands for the shine
as she loosed the skin again,
massaged it like his prick and back.
And the buttons on her blouse
were so smooth as she sewed,
and at night as she undressed.
That was 1986 and her buttons
have moths too, and the photo album,
their second-hand couch, VCR,
her chemo-wig have all been attacked.
In dreams he feels the suede
scratch against his skin, like her lips
which he rubbed with oil
but still could not repair.
If she saw the suede, there
are medicines she’d afford and try;
and he’d watch her tack and pull
while the red, hungry moths beat
their dusty wings at his dry back.
First published in Poetry New Zealand, 2012.