CHRISTOPHER J. ADAMSON
from FIGURE STUDY
at Moby Dick, 18th Street, San Francisco
Blanketed on pool-table-top your bare ass
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
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—
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,
from the bar beyond.
A crook in the arm … does your love
sleep there, a tuft of hair,
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.
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
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,
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
What a wrong turn I could take on your ribs.
… slope between
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
thrown upon the pool table of the eternal.
friend, begin your searing and pleating,
wilding and winning, capture between
drop and drop whatever waves of certainty you can—
place—have already—my faith
on your shoulder, immovable,
tense, and so
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*** ** ***
AN ACCIDENTAL EXHIBITIONIST
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. ADAMSON
Christopher 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 christopherjadamson.com.
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