He left something behind the morning after.
I found it almost by chance. It was hidden
in the plies of soiled linen. It dropped
from the sheets as I shook them, as though
the hole from a cigarette burn had gone loose
and was aired with the hairs and the smells.
But we did not smoke the night before.
Wrinkly, stretchy, bold, ridiculous,
much bigger than I remembered it,
what now lay on the floor was his bellybutton.
That little bit I’d licked with the tip of my tongue.
I picked it up, glad I hadn’t stepped on it,
wiped the fluff and held it with extraneous pleasure.
I stretched it to sheath my right thumb; it fitted
like a thimble of flesh. I covered it up
with a pink rubber glove and then proceeded
to do the washing. It was midday by then.
Scraps of breakfast cluttering the sink.
Sunday afternoon unfocused mind.
I imagined him sinking in the tub,
contemplating his new orifice,
wondering whether he should call back.
I put the soggy navel in one of those drawers
where one jumbles up miscellany:
foreign currency, outdated flyers,
torn rubber bands or borrowed photographs.
It looked obscenely ominous in there.
Then I waited and forgot. I heard his voice
a few days later on the answer machine.
‘Do you remember me?’ he said ‘I think
I left something behind the morning after.
Have you spotted my leather cock ring
with stainless steel studs by any chance?’
I phoned him back, explained I had not seen the item,
but invited him to come and have a look
I tidied up the flat, left his bellybutton on my bedside
I was eager to see him again.
When he arrived, he rushed into the bathroom.
He had to wee, he said, but the noises and moans
I heard suggested he was busy with other affairs
Was he looking for his navel in there?
Why was he running water in the bath?
He came out, agitated and flustered,
apologetic, a stupid grin on his face.
I couldn’t wait. I led him straight to the bedroom.
I displayed for him my collection of sex toys.
He didn’t pay attention, of course; his eyes were stuck
to the bedside table. ‘Is that a bellybutton?’
I pretended I did not understand.
I extracted explanations and ashamed confessions;
any excuse to have him shirtless again, really.
Embarrassed, like a teenager ashamed of her period,
he showed me the blood soaked tampon he had inserted
into his belly-hole and argued that the stretchy bit
belonged in there. ‘Are you sure, Cinderella?’
I thought. ‘Let’s give it a try. Does it fit?’
It drove him almost to tears. The navel,
stretched beyond recognition, and moist,
rejected his skin. It belonged to me now.
He left like he left the first time: his navel behind,
avoiding my eyes with a gloomy ‘goodbye’.
I didn’t know whether I’d see him again,
but I was left with his navel, which fits my thumb
like a thimble of flesh. That’s mine now.
From Chroma No 2 (Spring 2005)