Last Updated September 5, 2023.
When the poem begins, there is a woman on the street who is reading a poem aloud. The speaker and her significant other stop to listen to the woman reading, as do one or two other people. All of a sudden, the speaker feels the need to hug someone come over her, and she leans over to hug her companion, holding onto them for a long time. While they are still hugging, a man who is probably homeless walks up to them and asks the speaker's companion if he, too, can have one of those hugs, and she feels her companion nod in assent.
She is surprised that her companion doesn't explain to the man that she is taken, that this companion allows the hug with the stranger. The speaker seems to feel that this shows that the companion does not really love her because they do not want her all to themself. If her companion loved her, they would not be so willing to share her, she thinks.
So the speaker goes to the homeless man and hugs him. He is wearing a heavy coat, and so she has to squeeze hard to try to feel him within it. She is not sure how big to make the hug or how long to hold it. She notices that the man is so big that her hands cannot touch behind his back. She snuggles into him, and she feels him really hugging her back. It begins to feel as though they no longer have arms and are sort of merging together in this hug.
The speaker does not know if her companion has left, or if the woman is still reading the poem, because she is so absorbed in this hug. She says that hugs ought to be "masterpiece[s] of connection," so significant and meaningful that they leave a little imprint on you when the hug is finished, perhaps physically and emotionally. However, she thinks about what will happen when the hug is over, as her relationship with her companion is not what she thought it was.