At first you’ll think he’s the real thing, this man
who shoots ducks & rabbits & deer, who knows the scent
of a doe in heat. He’ll tell you about blood
steaming from a slit belly, how it smells like seaweed,
how it warms the hands, how November’s color
is lilac, not gray. At first you’ll think he’s a true romantic,
misunderstood but tender underneath, seeking solace
without the trappings of love, bearing a tube of Pillsbury dough
to bake on the first night he beds you. You’ll think it’s sweet,
how he loves to talk. He’s a talker alright, at least
on the phone, enthralled with the husk & drawl of his words,
story after story as if he’d been gagged
& when the talk turns dirty, you won’t protest, his rush of obscenities
low over the line, edgy insistent hum in your ear.
You’ll hear that wasp all day. You’ll get drunk on its venom.
Your critical faculties will turn into slop
& when you glimpse the telltale pinks, the blonde gloss
of a fresh Hustler, when he pops in the tape of operatic moans
& sinks back on the couch, you won’t ask him to stop.
Stop. Wash out his mouth with your salt-laced tongue.
Lash him fifty times hard with French feminist theory.
This man wants to be Hemingway or Springsteen, the toughest boy
on the roughest block, the big bad wolf with a heart of gold,
but he’s an all-night hard-rock radio station,
cranked without conscience, skinny & snarling, shaking
the souped-up deck of his Mustang— how come you
taste so good? Girl, don’t tolerate a man like this,
no matter what tricks he plays in the dark. If he can’t meet your eye
or kiss on the lips, or bring you hot tea when you’re ugly & sick,
you’ve been taken, had, played like a fish—because of course
he’s a man who fly-fishes in spring, eats the young brook trout
bones & all. He likes meat simple, he likes it quick.
He’s a working man with predictable passions, easy to arouse,
hard to sate, preferring your haunches in sheer lace panties, your calves
shaved clean, your nether hair neat, not a glimpse of shadow
when you raise an arm, feet scoured with a pumice stone,
criss-crossed with stiletto straps.
This man might pay money for sex. This man might,
after less than a week, without telling you, as a secret or treat,
place an ad online using your name—your real name,
though he’d change his—describing your body with a professional eye,
accurate, skillful, savoring its traits. “Ripe, round ass.
B-cup breasts.” Like a real estate dealer at an auctioned estate
he appraised your stats & filed them away
posting them later on Swingers.com. Maybe
a small germ just goes bad, a brain cell swells up
sore & mean. Like a wart blooms from a single cell,
rooting down deep into the meat of a hand
& if you try to cut it out, it grows back bigger.
Didn’t something about him always smell off, under soap
& shampoo, a whiff of old socks? Didn’t you notice
he was afraid of your cunt, he’d have to go wash
before he could sleep, this hunter & gutter
of wild beasts, scouring your musk from his hair, his skin?
Do you remember when you watched a bear being skinned
& saw beneath the hide, a bear looks quite human—
elegant haunches, elegant wrists, the color
of the inside of a person’s body? Do you remember
that color, the raw dark red, how you were transfixed, exposed
& broken, knowing your own flesh for the first time?
Diana Whitney‘s first book of poetry, Wanting It, was released in 2014 and became an indie bestseller. Wanting It was shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award in the UK and the Julie Suk Award for best poetry book published by an independent press. Diana’s poems and essays have appeared (or are forthcoming) in The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, Forklift, Ohio and many more. Her irreverent parenting column, Spilt Milk, was syndicated for years, ran as a public radio commentary series, and is currently being collected into a book. Diana received a Promise Award in poetry from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and won the 2015 Women’s National Book Association poetry prize. A yoga teacher by trade and a feminist by calling, she blogs about motherhood and sexuality for The Huffington Post and runs a yoga studio in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and fourteen chickens. Visit her at www.diana-whitney.com