You preferred men older,
and one man to many,
but he was in Atlanta
and we were in Boulder.
You hung back at first,
like the figure
in the black cameo
you liked to wear.
Then all was fair:
every feature forward,
every surface glad
on the single bed,
the only kind
my mom let me have.
Why do you always have to start crying just after I start?
You always have to ruin it for me.
Why can’t you bear it without taking part
when the grief is not your grief
and the heart is not your heart?
Dancing alone in the middle of a motion,
I catch myself smooth the boxer in me down and do you.
I’m at a bar, in a tight corner by the door,
when your shoulders take mine over,
when your head tugs mine right,
always right at first, then down
with a single pulse and forward
until I’m leaning with your weight,
dancing as though you were,
but a boxer still when your shoulders take mine over.
Pieces of Clothing
Limp on the shelf, exotic of its head,
dyed dandy chintz and printz,
this diadem of gold and black
keeps nothing but my long hair
when it’s dirty back.
Spun in a cane’s trick knob
by Byzantine worms, it was given me
with hits of speed in its folds.
I was eighteen.
Fetching, if justly cocked,
the woolen discus is not in danger,
since it has no bill,
of being worn by callow jocks.
Soldiers, workers, women
wear it black and blue.
And the writer used to,
red Renaissance Prince.
I can cock them too, as if they were berets,
fold them over, turn them up, button them down
and tie them with knots. Each makes me over
in the looker’s eye. Once, my neck stretched
toward the collar, which would’ve snapped it like a host.
Rise up, put off your hat, make a leg.
Suffer coat-skirts to hang so low
they hide the thighs. Here, let me touch
your knees’ soft backs until you bend
and the coat slide off. You could go
handsomer than hitherto you have.
Let the good ribband loose, let loose the scarf.
That leotard, does it go all the way?
Let one sheath discover another.
There. It brings out the calf of you,
the lope, the curve, the better half of you.
Peel it off a minute and let me see you
sway on the balls of your feet.
Middle of the day, middle of the room,
middle of the earth, and Jean, in boots
that hugged her calves and reached her knees,
that turned upon her toes as smooth as
just that thick of leather lined with an inch of lamb.
She asked to be taken with a pair of hands.
She looked at papers on her desk,
then laughed and turned, nicknaming me,
and bent to where my hands were on her uppers.
We didn’t bowl each other over,
but did it standing, strumming, dranging.
And every stitch was made of lips,
and our sweaters really breathed.
All over the country I’m in love, but not here
where I’m alone,
listening to Joni Mitchell
look the coyote right in the face.
My partner’s in New Orleans;
I may be in Boston a year from now,
if I get the offer I know I won’t refuse.
Jennifer’s there. We were lovers in Boulder,
London, and Nairn, where I played golf
at Macbeth’s castle and she taunted
an Angus with a Roman shopping bag.
Kathy’s in Provincetown, thinking of Paris.
I see her here, as she was twenty years ago,
and hope to see her soon, as she will be.
Heidi’s in Wisconsin. I found her by phone
after ten years of drift, our positions only
in memory intact, if at all. Ripeness isn’t all.
Liz is in Wyoming, vetting dogs and cats.
She hopes to share her bed with a big man
(in Oakland, Sharon called me “a big man”).