July 9, 2008

Old Men and The Frail         Operculum of Snails

Even in my youngest, ripest years, from twenty-four
  to twenty-eight,
Young men did not, as the poet Yeats suggests,
  “suddenly catch their breath”
When I was passing.

Even then, it was
Old men – old to me – men ten, twenty,
  fifty years beyond me on the Path
Who smiled and wanted to stroke my arm where
  fine golden hairs grew and looked like a
  crop of wheat ready to be mowed,
It was old men who liked to put their arms
  around my waist, and pretend to
Nuzzle in my ear,
Who invited me to dinner, so that
I could sit across from them and
Smile for French snails and wine.

Once, a fat old man who was my boss,
Invited me to dine, and I dressed carefully,
  knowing what would come after,
But not knowing that I would have to suck
Cooked snails from their hidey holes in shells.

If I had not been young, perhaps I would have
Sucked a snail into my esophagus and
Died, asphyxiated on a harmless morsel that
Crawled once along its trail of lubricating slime,
And I'd never have ended up under the fat boss
Rolling around in his bed,
  closeup seeing the sweat
  pouring from his forehead, his ugly nose,
Seeing the hairs in his nostrils, seeing his
  rubbery penis stalk my garden.

Now I attract only the oldest of old men;
  now I am
Perhaps in sight of heaven itself--
    and I have hidden the
Desire to have my body loved or caressed;
I do still like to have my shoulder touched,
  my arm stroked.
I have never eaten another snail, but
  love to see the glister of their garden trails,
Without specific aim, but generally toward
Safe damp rocks and tender shoots.

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