Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cohabiting by Stephen Dunn

There's not a nude in a museum
or a person anywhere, taking a bath,
nearly as naked as that French girl,
stripped of all but her socks,
head shaved, being spat upon
by her own townspeople
in one of history's sunlit
cobblestone squares. I've only
read about her, but somehow,
for me, she's permanently fixed,
a scaffolding of awful
yet understandable righteousness
surrounding her, accentuating
the stark paleness of her skin,
the big war finally over,
and behind it, for centuries,
those without pity
with their saliva and their stones.
I imagine how it began
between them, a man in a uniform
she had to have been wary of,
a man, in fact, dressed to kill,
touching her in some exactly
right place in a wrong time.
And I see her resisting for as long
as she can--minutes, weeks--
her mind searching for principles
her body doesn't seem to have.
Perhaps she thinks it's the end
of her world, what has she to lose?
Or she just falls
into those irrevocable tomorrows
like someone who knows
only what she feels, the enemy slowly
transformed into a man as lonely
as she is, with beautiful hands.
I can see the picture clearly now.
Terrified, she rushes forward,
which makes no sense, but I remember
when I did the same. Everything
in my education said, no, go back,
and I went headlong into the flames.

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