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.