One poem by Caoimhe McKeogh



Plaiting my hair, the tap running, my toothbrush clenched between my teeth, I hear you playing the guitar. A tune is lost and found and lost again between your fingertips, which have forgotten what they used to know. You hum gently, willing the strings to follow your lead, and the hum twinges its way into my chest. I secure the end of my plait with a red hair-tie, spit bluish-white foam into the sink and watch it shrink into the plughole, turn off the tap.



I remember childhood summer nights with the sky still light around the edges of my curtains, and winter nights with hours deflating slowly as I lay on them with all my weight. Bedtime was a lonely place. Sometimes the darkness would be broken by my mother’s fingers on the strings of a guitar, her voice joining in. It was too muted by the walls between us for me to understand the words, but I could hear the ache in the back of her throat.



Now I hear it in yours. We are so close together. I am here in the bathroom, the soles of my feet cold against the tiled floor, trying not to make eye contact with myself in the mirror, stroking my hands over my face even though my moisturiser has already sunk into my skin. You are in the garage, taking a teenaged toy out of storage, holding its curved wooden body against yours with such uncertain hands, smiling with the rush of remembering how it fits into you.



I want to press against your back, hold you like an old guitar rediscovered, hum into your ear and hear you sing the same notes back to me, feel you vibrate under my hands. But you will take your side of the bed and I will take mine, with the blanket stretched taut across the gap. We will throb like the space inside a guitar.


About the contributor

Caoimhe McKeogh
Caoimhe McKeogh lives in Wellington in Aotearoa, New Zealand. She has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University. Her poetry and prose has been widely published in journals including Landfall, Overland, Turbine, Starling, Cordite, Meniscus, and Mimicry. She is a member of Headland journal’s editorial panel.

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