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Two Poems photo

Keep your shirt on,

                                    she says,
and I know she means wait,
be patient, calm down,
but I can’t help but think
about what would happen
if I took my shirt off.

Certainly the room would not
darken with bodies clutched
in a tight ring around us,
sweat beading up on foreheads
creased in anticipation,
backs tensed, fists clenched
around crumpled, damp dollars.

A heated unbuttoning
of the button-down,
a shrugging out of creased sleeves.
Weak light from a bare bulb swinging
from an industrial ceiling,
conduits and pipes gleaming dull
and dripping. Not the promise
of connecting flesh,
bare knuckles and tender ribs.

Not the possible toss
to the concrete, knees pressed
to shoulders, thighs flexed,
straining tailored fabric.
Not an undulant roar,
a chanting pant of mob,
breathless for the bruise,
desperate for the thick, wet smack.

Or. That’s exactly right.
I finger the fine bone,
the line of white buttons
to my cut weight waist.


In all the months with the letter R

I often obsess about the walrus and the carpenter,
the bed of oyster babies, their blankets pink and blue
tucked around their fat fat bodies and into the edges
of their luminous shells. Their little shoes like beans
carrying them quick across assassin sand.

What if the carpenter had been a butterfly
or a baronet? An elephant or editor? A prisoner
or poetess? Syllables trip across the page and rip
meat from shell with the blunt edge of an heirloom
pocket-knife. Let the walrus keep his handkerchief.

I will not hide my face behind a slip of whisker,
a trap of stabbing tusk. I will not speak of ships
sailing quick across smoky harbors, bearing messages
sealed in colored wax to kings. I will stand at water’s edge,
salt dripping from my quivering chin, and I will eat.


image: Gabrielle Freeman