Rules for Hugging
by Hayley Mitchell Haugen
(a found poem, mostly)
I promise to hold you, to comfort, to snuggle, to help decrease your stress, improve your social skills, but I will not have sex with you: do not change in front of me, do not show me anything covered by undergarments. I will not touch you and you may not touch me anywhere covered by undergarments. I do not discriminate. I am happy to help raise your self-esteem, improve your sleep; when we cuddle, your blood pressure will fall into healthy ranges – people need to be touched, but I will not kiss you. You may not have my personal cell number or my email, and you may only contact me to make appointments. I will go on dates with you, cuddle you in public, hold your hand at the movies, caress you, as I would caress a friend. In my company, through my regular touch, your drug cravings may subside, your PTSD. I have a right, though, to protect myself, to carry mace, or other things, non-lethal, of course, for personal defense – you understand. I expect you will not break any laws when I am with you. Personal hygiene goes without saying: you will need to shower, brush your teeth, wear freshly laundered clothes. Finally, most importantly, don’t ever break the hug – I will do that.
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Hayley Mitchell Haugen holds a Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, where she teaches courses in composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her chapbook What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To appears from Finishing Line Press (2016), and poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Rattle, Slant, Spillway, Chiron Review, Verse Virtual and many other journals. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) is her first full-length collection. She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online: https://sheilanagigblog.com/ and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.