Three Views of the Human Body

1.

At first, I thought it was the steaming

tortellini, pillows sliding on a scalding plate,

that drew beads of sweat along my friend’s

hairline, rivulets etched from his temples.

Brian patted his face with a napkin’s

stiff corner, snapped it open,

explaining, This is better than waking,

sheets drenched. Food often breaks

the fever—as if the body, weakened

by TB, thrush, and other assailants,

is hungry for sustenance, mistakes it

for salvation, and celebrates with a surge

of salty cleansing.

 

2.

Because he is dying, we let Brian

cheat at croquet. The grooved wooden

balls, stately as grapefruit, lumber

across the lawn, clack against

each other and brush through wire wickets.

Brian sends his ball hopping into gravel,

nudges it with his foot, and we squint

beyond him into blazing sun, as if fascinated

with the fir tree’s great maternal nod.

He nudges his ball again, amused

at our leniency, smug as a child with indulgent

parents, though we feel more like parents

who do too little, whose child is crouched

on the lip of an abyss and cannot be called back.

Brian swings his mallet, wind whipping

his slacks, which cling to whittled shins,

the stark blade of thigh. We guess

at the breeze’s velocity, comment

on the garden’s winsome white bells,

the exquisite fluency of birds.

 

3.

Trading stubs of pastel chalk,

we draw hearts with names inside,

pavement blooming, two-thousand queers

gathered for a rollicking mega-wedding.

Shoulders back, stomachs flattened

by lavender cummerbunds, celebrants strut

in milky tuxedos, twirl in frosty

gowns. One man is slumped in a wheelchair,

his groom kneeling beside him, adjusting

their daisy wreaths, their faces beatific,

taking the full force of the sun.

After the speakers, the vows, the man

in the wheelchair turns to roll away,

chrome wheels flashing, legs withered

not by wasting—the kind the virus

brings—but some other disease, perhaps

one that leaves longevity intact.

Look, he’s handicapped, I whisper

to my lover, and we beam at each other,

as if this were glorious news.

Ontario Review and Bonanza