“So, why don’t you sleep with girls?”
“I’m not really attracted to girls.”
“Are you telling me you were really
attracted to every man you slept with?”
Conversation with a friend
After twenty I stopped counting,
not like my friend Beverly, who sewed
an embroidered satin star on her bell-bottoms
for every new guy she fucked.
She had them running down both legs
and around the billowing hem,
and was starting up the inseam
when the jeans gave out in the wash.
It was a boys’ game anyway, those years
of our extended homage to the penis:
the guitar playing the penis, drums saluting it,
cock rock, Molotov cocktail, the motorcycle
gripped between the thighs, and I went down,
we all went down, in the old cultural disaster
of idol worship—a thousand-year bender.
Only this time it was the adolescent member,
oiled and laved, thrust forward arcing,
thin with ache, all tight flesh poked upward,
claiming its own. How it came and went,
penetrating but never settling down,
and how often we were caused to admire it:
hairless sweet warrior, raider against the State.
But I have this sweet pink flower
here between my legs—I put my hand down and touch it,
still soft and wet, and many-folded, endlessly opening,
hiding, seeking, hidden and sought,
but never very much admired or even smiled on
in those years, never served much less sung to.
Not a garden then but a citadel,
a wall to be breached, a new land claimed,
but linger there? No, I would say
there was an overall lack of appreciation,
though breasts were well respected, slopping loose
under T-shirts like little animals,
and I would feel my nipples brush the cotton
with pleasure, see them regarded also with pleasure.
Still, sex then was a taking, like spoils of war, a victory
over all those straight fucks back home, marooned
in the dismal suburbs that birthed us squalling and red
and watched us flee in ungrateful cars down night highways.
And God knows it felt good those nights.
I was ready, it was ready, to open and answer the call.
And take me down and roll me over, yes, and give
it to me—but why all this riding away afterward?
Where was everyone going
and why didn’t I get to ride along? Who knew at first
nothing had changed, just wanting the thrust and tug
and slam up against the headboard, I should say so,
but left still wanting more, wanting to leap
out of centuries’ shame and be something new,
not this old consolation of women for the powerless,
some kind of cosmic door prize awarded
just for showing up with a dick,
some proof to themselves these boys were men.
“You’re good,” he said. Hell, I wasn’t taking a typing test,
I was fighting to live in a dying world.
I was throwing myself away, an offering to wildest space,
surrender to the mind’s dissolve, the body’s electric light,
nerve endings firing like exploding stars.
“You’re good,” they all said:
you’d think somebody was doing a survey.
Girls say yes to boys who say no, and then
your professor asks if you’re wearing underwear,
when you meet for your conference on the poetry of Yeats.
Crossing the border after midnight in a borrowed car
after a visit to the after-hours doctor’s office in Sarnia.
Nodding out in the back seat, pills wearing off.
He was a legend among undergraduates:
cheap and reliable, always on call,
until a month later the headlines screamed
“Abortion Doc!” when a girl died in his office
and he dragged her down to the river
and dumped her body in the underbrush.