The Mortician’s Goddaughter Versed in Lust
by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Just when I had long outgrown those late-night
seizures in my hand, those involuntary impulses
return to make my fingers twitch like the tips of twigs
after the bird leaps off the branch—
what a crafty little devil, bouncing back all
feathered and ticklish, jittery with pleasure
when it finally finds its nest. The sheets become as damp
as the sweaty shirts that cling to the backs of men
at the dance, and how I pity the girls who
undress their lovers before sex.
When I started loving other bodies instead, allowing other
temporary guests to mold their shapes inside my flesh—
a torso of my arm, a shoulder of my mouth, a waist
or a buttock of my leg—I had no need
to concentrate my rapture to a single sticky place
since every movement in my skin was slowing down
inside the vat of honey I was swimming in.
Oh bath with tongue, oh alchemy of heat and bed.
The memory of so much sex enough to keep me sated
in the quieter evenings of my third and final age.
So imagine my surprise when those possessions
from my adolescence woke me up again, but in the guise
of scribbling from my pen. Not fancy or confession
but something in the middle, like the mole that snuggles
in the space between my breasts, that glorious discovery
that makes the men cry out, the women
shudder with anticipation or intent. It’s more like poetry,
because it whistles through the paper like the weekend
afternoons I summoned passersby from behind
the window’s curtain. What wonder to seduce with sound,
granting serendipitous fantasy—here a table
with rotating thighs, there a closet panting with exhaustion,
there the eye of the voyeuristic clock bold and
looking to be satisfied with one pair of feet pointing at
two opposite corners of the room,
three fingers always vanishing inside the cluster of
four hands that motion slowly left, slowly right—
the capricious current of the underwater flower,
five limbs comparing lengths and flexibility,
their competition sabotaged by the arrival of a
sixth contender, seven escalating levels in the throat—
whimper, grunt, moan, sigh,
whine, hum, groan, cry—oh, and if we’re lucky,
thinks the grinning clock, we will spiral up the scale
(and down again) a good
eight times, nine would be too much to ask,
though not impossible since there was once a
record-breaking tenth, remember?
Eleven minutes for a quickie; at least
twelve positions for a marathon. Now why would I write
a thing like that, me who wears a garter belt to church
on Sundays, my best perfume to market,
where tomatoes look as dazed as the tomato seller?
Blame it on my mother’s poor choice for a compadre,
none other than the legendary lover, the mortician,
whom the women always said would have his way
with one, in life or in death—both,
if one was fortunate. And the rumor always was
that he had fathered me, though I never did detect
any resemblance. But what does it matter
anymore? I’ve outlived even the mortician’s crazy
daughter (half-sister, if the hearsay is correct).
If the mortician is my muse, then let him color
every word in ink as dark as pubic hair.
Where to begin? Ah, yes, fittingly, at the little piece
of skin that stimulates imagination:
I’ll compose a poem to the mortician’s scar.
Photograph: Evelyn McHale | ‘The Most Beautiful Suicide’ (Life Magazine, 1947) Photo by Robert C. Wiles On May Day