Two Poems

ELK

The man who said he could smell the girls ovulating

in the hallways was a poet, and the comment

offered years after the fact did not apply specifically

to my body, though I carried my bloody basket of eggs

under the window out which he had glanced

as he wrote lines that had sway at the time.  I still have

the window, the comment, his occupation,

the fact that he was a white man, sometimes given

to cheating on his wife; I still have his hand

brushing up as he speaks over a meal or cocktail,

a mustache he twirls as he speaks, or a silky

bright vest he thumbs.  But I no longer have the fact

of his name.  Some of the possibilities are dead now,

some alive and gravely ill.  Scraps of their poems

live in the windy archive of my recall crumbling

and reassembling themselves into a single song

of a time when women were poised to become

slightly more lucky for a while, the very fact

of ovulation having so recently become a force

we could control, though the pills

were too powerful, and the halls to which the poet

referred were churning with the hormonal tea

that made us thick and nauseous as perpetually

gravid beasts while we tried to master

the great books without the distraction of stray

testosterone.  The witty comment itself now churns in me

like the cocktail of synthetic hormones that inspired it,

falling in the trove of such witticisms escaped

from multiples of this clever fellow whose words

I hung on, this well meaning tutor without whom

I might have fallen back into the soup of biological

imperative, that sticky stream of ordinary women

dousing an English department in their cloud,

that herd goaded by the brutal urgencies

of fear and feed.

 

 

RUE MOUFFETARD

Most naked bodies are unspeakably sad

in the bland light of day, and photos

of wholes or parts, more like the dead

than the dead, gristled slabs laid out

on market carts to dizzy flies

and aproned matrons looking for liver

for their cats.  Someone loved the face

itself, quite apart from the rest,

best as terrain raised on a map

the hands travel alone and always

without haste.  She was right,

 

my young mother, who urged the lace

on my nuptial night: who desires

what the eye has already claimed?

And did he have a name for the member

about which we could laugh?  If so,

it’s thankfully lost, as are the camera’s swipes

we never made.  Someone once alleged

that sexual pleasure was more than half

the product of a good imagination,

and yes, what the mind could supply

was always what took the forlorn

out of “fornicate,” saved the newlyweds

from spoil, and left only the boar’s fixed

smile coaxed from emulsions, whatever crude

joke the vendor muttered in French

mercifully lost too. Even when they parted,

there was nothing for custody to command.

Neither had given birth to the comedy

of graphic captures, the laughable trace

of spoiled human self regard congealing

on enameled racks and rolled beneath the festive

awnings once the loin’s been sold.

 

 

Leslie Adrienne Miller is author of six collections of poetry including Y, The Resurrection Trade and Eat Quite Everything You See from Graywolf Press, and Yesterday Had a Man in It, Ungodliness, and Staying Up For Love from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Professor of English at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an M.A. from the University of Missouri, and a B.A. from Stephens College.

Issue #44 February 2015
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