Skinned

        It was like this last nightshe comes into the bed dropping pine budsleaves silty river sandpockets full of feathersdust tiny dry insectssettle next to me where we drift through the darkdog and womanme wolf-wifeshe my dirty protectressin that rare moment before dawnI wake to her breathingshe snores like my motherfour paws in the air like four little prayersthe only thing I see in the half-lightlike lighthouses guiding meI put my finger into her soft spotthe place dead centre between the padsthey curl round me like tarmac-petalsgently gripI can feel the downy fur in that most sensitive of placesshe lets me do itI investigatehalf-imagine her nocturnal work has her circling round againagain until she finds the right dip in the bedslumps along my spinethere she licks her whole body cleanprogressing from neckruff to bellytail diligently shimmeringshe circles once morelicks herself all over againa shift-workerI never knew how busy she was when during the day she mostly sleepsevery inch of pelt becomes a landscapeslightly damp with pink fluff underneatheach rough claw nibbled freeeach nipple cleared of milkin the early hoursI am so close to herlistening to the lapping like a kittenribbons of dry-saliva raspingshe swallows againthen she raises her head sleepyconfused not quite herein that same split-second my mind double-takes to the shot of a film I had seenwhere a white fox is fleshed whole from anus to headripped by the tailthrown on a pile of dead carcassesslippery like foetuses but the camera does not stopI watch from the bloody messit lifts up its muzzleblack eyes blinkthe strip light too bright.