Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Toward the end of the poem, the speaker describes a hug as something which ought to be a "masterpiece of connection." In her mind, then, it seems that a hug can tell a person a lot about the other person's feelings. It is notable, for this reason, that when she hugs her significant other, her companion and lover, she says, "I finish but keep on holding you." She says that she finishes, but not that they finish; her companion does not really seem to be an equal partner in this hug.
It is as though they receive the hug but do not return it in the same way. If fact, the speaker also describes her desire to hug her lover as being like a star that is so overflowing with light that it has to "shoot" some of it off; presumably, the hug is her attempt to "shoot off" some of her loving feelings toward her companion. Notice that it is not reciprocated in the simile.
Later, however, when the speaker hugs the stranger, the feeling of the hug is quite different. She says that
This is his and he's starting
to give it back so well I know he's getting it. This Hug. So truly,
so tenderly, we stop having arms and I don't know if my lover has walked away
There is something reciprocal about the feelings associated with this hug. This is not a star sloughing off some of its light and receiving nothing in return; the homeless man is giving something back to the speaker during this hug. This hug is true and tender and makes the speaker feel as if they no longer have arms and that they are sort of merging with one another in a really beautiful, emotional way. She's not even sure what is going on around them during this hug, if her companion is still there, if the woman is still reading the poem, and so on.
This is how hugs are supposed to be, and the contrast between her hug with her companion and her hug with this stranger is stark. Her companion's willingness to share her and her hugs with someone else was already quite revealing to her, and, in the end, she wonders where she will "go back to" when this cosmic, eternal hug is over. Her lover's lackluster hug and willingness to share her hugs with others seems to tell her that their relationship is over.