If you will speak to my belly, speak soft
and featherlight touch the skin unseen
to where black wire predicts a caesar in my stars –
a cross-stitch trail to traipse along.

Be gentle as you bare my belly:
I may beg your bracing for my shoulders and my throat
but here is a temple for sweetness alone.
In the field of our embodied battles
some things bear protecting, even from loving hands.

My years have laid snow upon snow on my mountain
and still shine through a crack or two;
a natural stretching, of course –
the ones from my own claws long since smoothed.

If you will speak to my belly, speak soft,
and do not wake the beast.
She rumbles a thousand voices, never all my own
but we could have a century of quiet tenderness
if we can speak soft, soft and softer still.