Against Naturism

By Roddy Lumsden b. 1966 Roddy Lumsden
I realise it’s not all salad sandwiches
at pinewood picnics, endless volleyball.
I’ve heard the argument that talk of shame
and how our forebears thought their bodies dirty;
how we've all got one. Seen one, seen ’em all.

But it’s not for me, beneath my double load
of Calvinist and voyeuristic tendencies.
For me, I have to see the clothes come off:
the way a button’s thumbed through cotton cloth -
a winning move in some exotic game

with no set rules but countless permutations -
or how a summer dress falls to the floor
with momentary mass and with a plash
that stirs us briefly as we ply our passion;
a hand pushed through the coldness of a zip,

three fingertips that follow down the spine
to where a clasp is neatly spun undone
amidkiss, by prime legerdemain
and who cares that it happens once in four
and never, never on the first undressing,

it must be better than a foreskin snagged
on gorse thorns or a cold, fat nipple jammed
in the scissor drawer, the bounty and the blessing,
the mystery of nakedness reduced
till on a par with go-go palaces

where goosebumped, grinding strippers strut their stuff
in the birthday clothes of backstreet empresses,
down on a par with the oncologist
who gropes for lumps, the night-morgue man who clips
his nails amongst the naked, bin-bagged stiffs.

So, stranger, what I want to say is this:
if you’re to join me in a little sinning
(and this is my place up here on the right),
please understand I’d value some reluctance,
a cold-feet shiver, as in the beginning

when Eve discovered modesty and slipped
in and out of something comfortable.
For there are many ways to skin a cat,
but ours is human nature - things come off
so rarely. Come in. Let me take your coat.

Roddy Lumsden, “Against Naturism” from Mischief Night: New and Selected Poems, 2004.  Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd.,

Source: Mischief Night (Bloodaxe Books, 2004)

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Poet Roddy Lumsden b. 1966


Subjects Relationships, Love, Desire

 Roddy  Lumsden


Roddy Lumsden was born in St. Andrews, Scotland; he describes his upbringing as small-town and working-class. His earliest exposure to literature came from his mother and older brother, who would read aloud to him when he was a child. Later, when he attended school, his writing was influenced by the works of W.S. Graham, Philip Larkin, Thom Gunn, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath, and by song lyrics.

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SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Desire


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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