Photo by Jeff Sirkin




for J

at Moby Dick, 18th Street, San Francisco


Blanketed on pool-table-top your bare ass

shines, burrowed

in the bought-broken eyes

of onlookers, spectators pitched forward

against their wrists frantically drawn

to the drawn-upon cheek

rendered in charcoal or graphite or ink,

the elbow sharp, papered and flown

against the cock caught

pocketed between timber-thighs

and held hand

to mouth

against the tempest bodied here in strange corner bar

against drafts of gin and feet.


… There in your eye is a wet vacancy.

Recline beneath the fluorescence

into your pose—breadth of nothing but

a beyond breath, pockmarked

pitch of jaw,

verb to clause, every part a part

of what it is not—

cheek, hand,

range of the rug-worn rib.


We expand in the work of the sketch:

your will, want, calf-apple too short,

a knee hole full and rough.


I know this pose, one leg extended,

split against the spit of the other

bent casually ever-so at the knee,

arm propped holding the weight entire

of whatever burden you carry with

in large hands that look from here

—a wreck of perspective—

the size of seals.

Yes, you are extended, an

extension of limbs

drawn taut against flat

front, curved back, brought to battle against

broad front. What-

ever genius you possess is lost

on that stool, holy perch.

The ever-pheasant, no, -pleasant, no,

-present laughter

from the bar beyond.


A crook in the arm … does your love

sleep there, a tuft of hair,

where, there,

beyond the succulent grass

but before the demented

river of your youth.

Don’t fall, friend. Don’t

lose your soul, keep breathing, don’t

forget to stretch. Stop. Switch my pen.

Contour. Contour.

Where’s my drink.

(Each pose deeper grows

into itself, into you, I

can hear the limit groan,)


… Your body is simple shapes you can see

if you look long enough, enough

to see the braid

in the bicep, the slope in the toe.

That’s it, relax, you’re on a beach perhaps,

or in the lap of God. He

looking downly on you

while you in still comfort

and reverence

look up.


Look up. The fur

on your chest parts titanically, close,

wet as graves.

This cliché cannot

be escaped. Can one call a pose trite?

Because yours is, yet precise,

classic, a wonder here

pool-table tableted by Himself him-

self, like the furrows he has burrowed

on your chest. Blessed,

that’s the word—misunderstood,

turned radical

by the hard heart.


How can I make “thigh” a verb;

how form more than this:

crotch-up, reclined, serviceable.

Anatomy of a back,

turned away or turned toward

what clutches it.

Foreshorten the hair, there and there.

Burglarize the composition, here

and here.


What a wrong turn I could take on your ribs.

… slope between

two points,


and interior,

shoulder ball to armpit pitch—

Footsteps across the forehead breaking into a team

of shadows undaunted in capacity

for love or honor, for thirst

and drink, for

each ass

thrown upon the pool table of the eternal.

Begin again,

friend, begin your searing and pleating,

wilding and winning, capture between

drop and drop whatever waves of certainty you can—

thrust-faint I

place—have already—my faith

on your shoulder, immovable,

tense, and so

closely observed.


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*** ** ***



Among the pelican’s crest of blue to bluing sea and beach

where we infrequently display among the others there

(men in whom the wish to wound is as obvious as their lack

of let’s be honest skill in cruising one-another and as their, and our, lack of clothing),

roots rub against towel against sand.

And we are pink or brown or black or not as leathery

as the ancient locals whose bellies belie their unswaddled confidence

as they approach and scoff our just as obvious lack of protective base,

for we continuously apply sunscreen in an aerosol cloud sea-spray thin;

what’s left of our modesty

we left at the car above the cliff that blocks from view of Highway 1

our unsunned skin. This could be as Eden was for them, but here we are

among it all, and although the beach is not strict nor official

about its purpose (you will for instance see the occasional nude woman

or clothed family with kids)

it is hard not to feel some Calamus camaraderie among all these dicks.

I feel foolish as I write this, yet, and yet, it’s true the eros among us

as in that man there, brown with baggy white shirt and baggy boxers

sloughed off around his ankles, who performs for us a stroking masterpiece

as timed as trochees were, or would be.



We went again and brought binoculars

to see him in the same white shirt and boxers

but this time he was climbing the rock up the cliff barefoot

but I can’t say why, perhaps he wanted a better view of the sea.

It was particularly purple that day,

overcast yet our beach found at times a pocket in the fog,

and all that gray circled around us benign,

a stormy whorl to which

we paid no attention (why would we among all that other awe),

and I swear the former performer perched

on the rock saw it too,

and although he avoided eye-contact with me,

with us, together we acknowledged as much.

About awe, nothing but acknowledgement.

Some will try to own it.

Perhaps myself am guilty of this, like dust, perhaps nothing is more

humbling than an imminent sea in which a body moves not

by its own will but by the water’s

pull and eviction,

fight that cannot be won except by surrender.

I have begun to dream of swimming in the sea,

have only recently discovered in water a medium for movement

yet find myself obsessed

with unearthed freedom of and from breath.

Water demands withdrawal;

I have felt, though incomplete, enough of it to wonder why

in the garrulous hothouse of life on land

it isn’t practiced more, or honored, or.

Some bravery of body

required; showing it off

like a prime cut; belly and balls protruding;

exhaling air thus expelled

like stone sinking;

a new kind of error

revealed in an “alien” element.



— No. This is a lie we tell,

that this element’s other, making tolerable

our first expulsion from water.

When we return we remember

that first breath of air as betrayal,

cruel in its promises and crueler

in its gray and grappling compulsions.

Of that paradise, what.

As well as not imbued with the same eros as our

cliff-caught beach where the agents of erosion

rebuff the bigness of the body;

everyone seems small,

necessarily, and nobody minds.

To mind would be simple, would be

near sacrilege—for these cliffs

are of course the heart-battering,

dust-returning, self-same sublime

as all those poets saw and heavily

remarked upon, only here remarked

mutely then erased, adorned only

with glittering gyzym in the sand,

for what is life if it is not the

three men who, having glanced their last

communicative glance, walk off

together behind some rocks out of view;

they are alive, as is the one

our performer who it seems comes

to the beach as often as he can to get off,

and as are the seven players

at the hairless slick of one-another:

an obnoxious orgy too near (“they took

our spot”) to our tame couple. We heard

their raucous strip and pop of champagne,

then nervous laughs, then busy silence;

we caught oddly hostile glances

from the group’s international stud

while he was in another, flasher

of rabid smiles, they brought him here

although he needed, we heard, to be

at the airport in an hour. Our beach,

their bed, loudly betrayed. Finished,

two wandered to the waves to wash their cocks.

Why here? What is it with the sea

and being watched? In the locker room of the pool

wherein I swim an habitual mile

our nudity does not inspire

such pomp as at the beach, keeping

eyes averted and averring that the

beautiful broad-shouldered bearded man

in the tiny gray briefs loose a little

around the bulge does not entice,

although he does, when he stands before

his lane or before the urinal,

face forward or behind, legs a bit

apart, ass yes enticingly round;

all and clearly this despite the hope

of many is not a sexless place, and

although water can loose a body

in the quick rip of a deadly current

it can also command uninhibited

the cock, the chest, the legs let go,

a thin permeating desire

like words are, or breath, or.



(My dream of swimming in the sea

admits me. I pull and breathe and it

spreads its icy hostility

quickly but then, slowly, admits me

as only struggle admits, my mouth

brackish gaping, being stripped.

Weak and yet affirmed, I. My stroke

a sea gull-glanced glide, as if dis-

embodied, I and the tide.

My blood my variable heat woken

and worn away by the winter water.

My skin made nearly errorless.

A body, this. And after one

brief December lap I return

to the little bar of sand, the dock,

emerge as if renewed yet only

new, not entirely breathing air

again until I find myself

warm in the shower and the sauna,

congenially nude. And only then

do I begin to talk again.)


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Christopher J AdamsonChristopher J. Adamson
is a California-based poet, critic, and essayist. His writing has appeared in the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and publications including ZYZZYVA, Boston Review, Tammy, and Southwest Review. This fall he will join the PhD program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California. Read more at


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