Tony Magistrale is Professor of English at the University of Vermont. He is the author of three books of poetry: What She Says About Love (Bordighera Press 2008), The Last Soldiers of Love (Literary Laundry 2012), and the most recently published Entanglements (Fomite 2013). His poems have also appeared in The Harvard Review, Spillway, Green Mountains Review, Slipstream, and Alaska Quarterly Review, among other places.
Flesh is but part of what we desire,
wandering among fellow husbands and lonely hearts
in search of less hostile company
to simulate the girlfriend experience
purchased for forty minutes, time on a meter.
I know the fact that I find
so little offense in how we’ve spent the past hour
is enough for some to feel seriously offended:
admiring innocuously variable parts of the female anatomy,
the genuine athleticism that enables
a brilliant landing from atop heavily greased pole
wearing seven-inch stiletto platform soles.
But why must there remain
such secrecy? Omerta! my friend keeps telling me
sotto voce, like we’re planning to rob the till
or kidnap one of the girls.
You can almost taste the fecund smell of this place
as I sip my twenty-dollar beer
and notice my buddy has disappeared
behind a black curtain in the back,
while into his emptied seat slides this buttery soft blonde,
a pastel Renoir nude, fifteen pounds overweight,
her right hand’s red nail extensions
digging into my thigh, as she whispers into my ear,
Don’t get too comfortable, dear.
Before This Was My Book
Purchased at a local yard sale
for two dollars, it belonged to someone
else, a young woman I would surmise
who left small feminine pencil notes in the margins
and underscored lines from her favorite poems
meant to be read by a man she loved
but felt compelled to leave. There’s no
explanation for why their love had to be aborted,
only images already receding into memory—
I will remember the morning light . . .
Getting dressed for you before our meeting . . .
The smell of sex, your fingers entwined in my hair . . .
How can I ever hope to make this book
my own after she has evoked language
so intimate to these two alone?
Perhaps I need rather to adopt
the more cynical attitude of her lover,
who must certainly have understood
the importance of these words from his mistress,
yet ended up abandoning them anyway—
which is I suppose the fate of most books
and many love affairs—gleefully
opened, explored—and then discarded
to await the fresh caress of some stranger’s hands.