They seem to be everywhere this summer,
though summer is noticed only by the calendar
in this city of perpetual sunshine (even when it’s foggy).
Smooth young men in muscle shirts or tank tops,
their sculpted arms and shoulders filling my eyes.
I think I have never seen such beauty—the slope of neck
that flows into taut trapezium, descends to mound of deltoid,
the rise and taper of bicep, sometimes encircled by intricate
tattooed band; and under the shirts hugging their bodies,
outline of molded pectorals, solid, armor-plated.
These living Davids, brown or black, yellow or white, gay or straight,
I want to touch them, trace each cut and sculpt, read them
like Braille, remember them with my cupped palm,
trail them with my tongue.
Such bodies! I do not recall such bodies in the boys of my own days.
In the Northeast, where summer was the payoff for freezes and blizzards,
parkas and sweaters hid our bodies’ secrets most of the year.
Only on the basketball court or at the lake, visible shoulders
and arms and chests I remember as gawky and stringy and pale—
too fearful of my own desire to look too long.
Now, when it is too late, I see them everywhere.
Some men I know write grit:
youth and manhood and coming of age.
Memory of that tricked-out ’56 hot rod with chrome wheels,
how they polished it with their brothers after football practice.
Of summer jobs in mills and factories, their
grime and sweat, biceps hard as the steel they forged.
Of pick-up basketball on hot asphalt courts,
slamming bodies and hard-eyed stares.
Of the mud and blood of Vietnam, bayonets
and hooches and still-vacant stares.
These are solid poems, ones you can grip
with those muscled arms, lean against,
kick dirt with the toe of your boot.
I write longing:
To be asked to that football game,
taken for a ride in that car. Memory of that first black dress,
all taffeta and rustle. Of proms and white orchid corsages,
slow-dancing to “My Prayer,” by The Platters.
Of motherhood and worry, then aging and sagging body.
Soft-edged poems of seeking—wanting more,
then less, of sitting and silence and breath.
These are barefoot poems whose toes caress earth,
whose lines sway with the breeze.
The leaning is into myself.
—Previously published in City Works Journal (2009)
Mentors high-school seniors for writing projects, and volunteers at KSDS Jazz 88.3
FM. Her poetry has been published in, among other journals and anthologies, Snowy
Egret, The Christian Science Monitor, and San Diego Poetry Annual;
and is forthcoming in Ekphrasis.
She is the City Works 2007 National Award Winner. Her collection, Gateways:
Poems of Nature, Meditation and Renewal, was published by Caernarvon Press.