You’ve got to be kidding, she said,
Having moved past nonplussed to outright incredulous.
She was, at least in retrospect, not alone,
As we were there, just the two of us,
Having walked up Bootjack Hill past the derelict and defunct mills,
Past the equally moribund old middle school,
All the way to the old section of the cemetery
(Rarely mown and less rarely visited,
The markers and obelisks commemorating families
Who, though the names were vaguely familiar,
Had few branches of the familial tree in the area,
And those that remained were generally not of a mind
To see how relatively prosperous and glorious their clans had once been.)
She was not a slave to the disingenuous and de rigueur demureness
Called for in that time and place, where a failure to register
A pro forma protest at a cupped breast brought suspicion among one’s peers,
And any attempt to navigate anywhere near or beneath ones panties
Required an ostentatious and woefully insincere passing out
So the next day could be greeted with beatific and virginal smiles.
She’d not kept faith with such notions, and so here it was
(The big It, the Holy Grail of It) being offered up on a platter,
But I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, not so much from nerves
(Though they were there, understand, my pulse ramped up it such a manner
That it played a Babalu which Ricky Ricardo would have envied)
Nor lack of preparation, as my wallet contained a condom
That was reasonably new-ish and theoretically dependable.
It just doesn’t seem right, I stammered in protest,
It’s just wrong somehow, disrepectful mebbe.
She’d looked at me, her face a mask of beyond disgust,
And though her eyes bespoke of soliloquies and angry sonnets,
She simply spat out And these poor damn stiffs got here how?
I’d said nothing in reply, stuck in some adolescent morass
Where I was neither flip nor fly.
At which point she’d fixed me with a look residing in some interval
Between disgust and pity, and, having ascertained
That there was no hope for the likes of me,
Simply grunted Oh for chrissakes, just walk me home,
You goddamned country-ass bumpkin,
And we trundled unsteadily unsteadily back toward town,
Footsteps hesitant on the long, unkempt grass,
Dew-soaked now that the procession of dusk had reached the doorstep of night,
The quarter-lighted shadows making the stones indistinguishable
From snakes, rabbits, and other living things.