I wrote the first draft of this poem for the PFFA Apprentice competition. It is the first poem I published in New York City. Miriam Stanley heard it at the Pink Pony Express open-mic at Cornelia Street Cafe, and asked for it. I sent her this poem and "River Blindness," both of which appeared in her "Rogue Scholars Collective" online journal.
I hear a man jerking off at the Met
and straightaway remember you, O, Jack.
I'm flushed with sympathy, to tell the truth,
to hear him groan in the next stall for beauty
captured in voluptuous sculptured stone.
Who is this restroom seer, lover, man?
From hog farmers of Iowa, a man
aspiring to meet his muse? Instead he met
his fate of stunning listeners into stone
at Bowery Road Café. Blind, he jacks
off Perseus, in his mind, asserting beauty
in holding forth the Gorgon’s heady truth.
Or someone more acquainted with the truth
of streets: a skinny kid, almost a man,
from Harlem, pricked by the white muscled beauty
of Ugolino and his starvelings met
briefly in school? I hear him whimper, Jack,
inside his Tower of Hunger, beat off stone.
Or seeing Andromeda chained to stone,
the monster squeezing her in coils of truth
sprung from the sea, does he forget he’s Jack
afloat, on shore leave from his merchantman,
imagine flirting chance and courage met
to petrify the beast, rescue the Beauty?
Or a priest, drawn against himself to beauty
curled in a Cupid, who rebukes the stone
in flesh, the flesh in stone and, having met
himself, confesses to himself the truth?
Or, sick of buzz-saw talk among hard men
and licked by dancing Pan, a lumberjack?
Or is he one like me (unlike you, Jack),
stirred by a torso's mutilated beauty,
an echo of the whole, sufficient man
for him to recreate the missing stone.
His moan as he comes, if you want the truth,
excites me more than any man I’ve met.
I’m telling you, Jack, it's fine to gaze on stone,
but far more beautiful, far more truthful,
is the groaning man, unseen, unmet.
First published in The Rogue Scholars Collective (October 2005).