Poems March 2002
And so she took off her shirt, all
in one motion, pausing
to make her hesitation an act of modesty,
yet immodest. We had not had
an affair, and could never have an affair.
It was not that she was not beautiful,
though she wasn’t, and not that I
didn’t know the desire of other men
to sleep with her. The Atlantic
lay in the harbor, fusing its blue disorders
to the light slatted through blinds,
the light that barred her breasts.
They were, need I say, nearly perfect.
I saw how proud she was of them,
proud too of their effect on men,
and I knew I wasn’t the first man
before whom, in one sinuous motion,
she had stripped off her shirt.
It made her vulnerable, that mute beauty,
thinking no man who saw her naked
could control his desire. Even after
I had refused her, she had been unable to stop.
She looked away, as if in shyness,
to let me watch her as she wished to be watched.
Then she put on her other shirt.
When I saw her recently, twenty years
had passed, and those years cruel
to women, even women you love.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 7, on page 35
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