Circa 1976: He Asked If You Had Read Cavafy's Poems

[after Constantine Cavafy's poem,
"He Asked About The Quality"]

 

About a week or so after the move-in,
helpful or cynical upperclassmen visited
 the first floor freshmen's wing of the dormitory,
to offer certain unofficial advice
neither academic nor scholarly;
a sort of open secrecy---
perhaps the same at every university.
"Invite her to your room to study,
"or to listen to record albums,
"and when the conversation has
"become comfortable, ask her to
"take her shoes off---this is the first step
"toward your goal of ultimate seduction
"to the intimate pleasures both of you desire."
They left---some of them smirking,
some of them openly laughing, at
your callow and awkward naivete---
most unaccommodated in that part of the world.
But not too much later, one of them returned:
you knew him only by reputation---
that even sorority girls considered him
beautiful (and sometimes they said, gorgeous),
The ringlets of his shoulder-length hair
seemed as remarkable to you as his smile.
He had brought, with him, a copy of Cavafy's poems,
which he had recently browsed upon;
he asked if you had read them. You nodded;
and asked him, by way of reply, to take off his shoes.
He did, without hesitation, chuckling a little,
and said that you learned fast---leaving more time
for other, very pleasant, endeavors,
to which the reading of those poems might contribute.
His voice had become gentle, sultry---appropriate
to this very private moment, no longer loud or
boisterous in the manner of the residents of upper floors.
Not soon enough for you, he removed his shirt,
and your lingering inhibitions shattered fully.
Your usual clumsy awkwardness no longer mattered.
Desire now directed your instincts, as it directed his.
Because the dormitory housed only males,
no curfew or visitation restriction interfered with this night.
After reading a few of the poems to each other---
one can accurately imagine which ones---
the four lips and two tongues, yours and his,
found a less verbal and yet more intense language,
verging on a passionate silence most nuanced.

 

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