~ This poem was first published in River Styx (2011).
You were fat in those days: neglect
had slipped like a towel from your waist
showing the whole world the soft rolls of yourself.
How it all glowed under your skin
like a radium dial,
becoming in the end:
a thick envelope for a thin heart.
And on summer nights, when the heat
dripped off the leaves like fat caterpillars,
you’d hang out sniffing cognac, putting on airs
in the only class restaurant around.
Those were the days when haute cuisine
were still foreign words
meaning something more than meatloaf.
How it moved you purposely along
up an invisible ladder
toward some new decorum.
Still, you dared to ask the slim dishwasher,
her first night ever on a job,
to go for a swim after work.
She was a young slip of a blonde with corkscrew hair,
whose father had wired your house and whose lightning wrath
you had never known,
but always feared
like a biblical child fears his Maker.
Nonetheless, somewhere in that part of your brain,
where things dwelled under the surface,
as quiet as crocodiles,
you both knew the pitter-patter
and thump of your intent.
There is a safety in numbers
when a handful of strangers all begin to disrobe at once,
side by side,
in the sweltering privacy of their own dark space.
Everyone concentrates so hard
to liberate their right foot
from the left leg of their lonely lives,
they see nothing else, and nakedness goes unnoticed.
(But let’s forget about the others.
They are irrelevant.)
The two of you slip into the water
as pat as opposable thumbs.
You swim out to the raft
where a host of faceless bodies
loll about like Romans.
The idea of numbers is still in play.
Then, one by one, the faceless bathers
roll off the raft and swim away,
taking with them the peeled grapes
and nibbling minnows of their hands,
and only the two of you are left to count the stars.
You know how it is about the dark,
how even in a moonless sky
the night stars can seem strong enough
to show you things as if it were day.
That’s when you noticed
the statuary-beauty of her body,
(as if your art had suddenly found art)
but what you remember most about that night,
and knew you would,
as you stood watching
her leggy presence
cross and uncross itself,
before she reached up to, finally,
clasp her hands behind the bustle of curls
bedding her head
––so unabashedly at ease––so unafraid––willing to show you––
every delicate portion and pocket
of her being,
that it was hard to believe she was that young,
and that you did not touch her––not out of fear––
nor youth––nor even any unwritten law of decency––
but out of an inkling that, one day, this memory
of her fearless poise would be more precious
to you than what you sought.
THE STORY BEHIND THIS POEM
We don’t always know where epiphany comes from, but, nonetheless, this shouldn’t stop us from acting on it anyway. “The Remedy” is part of a full length collection I am hoping will be published soon, which, among other themes, explores the body and desire. The poem relates a somewhat tongue-in-cheek story of a young man who is both physically and spiritually full of himself yet manages––at the last minute and quite by accident––to see something important . . . a sort of remedy to his ways.
ABOUT TIM MAYO
Tim Mayo’s poems and reviews have appeared in Barrow Street, Poetry International, Poet Lore, River Styx, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. His collection The Kingdom of Possibilities was published by Mayapple Press in 2009. He is a five time Pushcart Prize Nominee and has been a top finalist for the annual Paumanok Award. For more information and links to hear him read go to : https://www.pen.org/tim-mayo/member