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Stephen Mead




Full Bodied

Come. Consider this flesh:
the stretches of birth, its
wears of freckles, its
firm marks.
How grand. How decadent.
How I could be large enough
for a deity: the breasts of
Buddha, and belly of the
Villendorf Venus.
Call me Circe of the crossroads
with a whole West Side Story
dipping across the shadows of this,
my turf--
docks, dance halls & warehouses,
the angelic street toughs, the scurrying
from swallows, those cops, with a taste
of wine & cigs still thick in my mouth.
I open it, an accordion. What tunes,
what tales swoop through there
where such brawls took place & they
had to nail the tables down?
Now I'm a pantheress, now a true stud,
equestrian with Lautrec's Paris, Chagall's
lovers entwined about my baubles, the many
rings of my fingers, pearls about the neck.
They are gleaming fresh again from the ancient
pursuit---
fascination in a gasp, a look, this intimate refuge
from the boulevard's tango, its harbor of
uncloaked silks, tossed away caps, unbuttoned
zoot suits.
What's in the background? Mirrors, Notre Dame,
the hiss of cesspools being washed.
I recall only sighs, the passage of francs, being
"fallen" but thinking, "Well, it's a life", while
dreaming I was beyond the songs of Edith Piaf,
more of a Mahalia Jackson really, with a voice
huge as Africa, and spiritual, spiritual.



Hard Sell

The big turn on. How much
you put out? Honey, open 24 hrs.,
a regular cracker box. Cash up front.
Easy does it. Don't want to forfeit
the prize now, do you? We'll make it
smooth .. No. I ain't fakin. I aim
to please. You wanna shell, pom
poms, a nun's habit? Pretend then.
Set down that belt. Alright, but
it'll cost extra. Stretch marks?
Yeah. So what? Gotta kid too,
lives with my Mama. She keeps
his nose clean, sends me pictures.
Care to see? Didn't think so. Nah.
Nothing personal. Of course this
is business. Used to it? Sure.
Hell, what else you expect me to
say?



Heading Home

Lying in the back seat, my parents,
up front, murmur now and then. Mom
criticizes Dad's driving. Dad
speeds up just to egg her on or,
perhaps, gives in--
"Yes dear, yes." Turns on
Easy Listening. Their voices
go lower. The rear window rises,
gains prominence, darkens for stars,
the blinking lights of jets.
Different trees wave, encircle
this portal, a still clear screen
amid motion. It rocks, rocks
imperceptibly as I watch
shadow-rippled.
Later, older, alone with each other,
we inherit these expected
front seat positions. It's a
graduation of sorts, this cruising
over blue moonlit highways, a rite
of passage detailed by Frankie
crooning, a small second hand companion
to keep us from falling
asleep at the wheel.



Contributor's Note