To Do It Like Her
when i rhyme for you it feels like i have no clothes
your hungry eye sees all it thinks it knows
and when i don't the skin there is still yours
broken beneath the cover of the sleeve
to do it like that, by nancy
My dearest friend Nancy indulged in all types of poetry, from the strictest sonnets to the wildest free form, from the remote venerable classics to the most intimate one-night-stand impromptu pieces. Yet despite how wide-ranging her tastes in verse, a single common theme seasoned every single poem she experienced, whether her own compositions or those of the most published authors: she saw every poem as the body of woman, and she loved the body of woman as poetry. Whether a poem ventured specific reference such as in the short piece of hers launching this letter or was directed to some completely different topic as distant as war or death or taxes, she could still see the female form without so much a stretch as it might take to wake up one of her own legs from sleep's yawn.
Back then we spent several nights a week up in Jen's loft, drinking and smoking and talking poetry and politics and whatever else came up, riding night past three the next morning, no agenda, no deadline. And no routine, except it became a standard of most gatherings that someone would encourage Nancy to give us a performance of one of her new poems. Which almost always end up with her ditching her clothes, using her own body as part of her poem. Not a striptease act any more than a doctor's examination, both of which she had enough experience with to draw the distinctions; this was exactly what she made of it and what we took from it a poetry reading merged with an exploration of feminine beauty.
We'd see her ribs and somehow get a whole different perspective of an alliterative phrase in a poem, then just as we caught it she would move slightly in just the right way to make her ribs pronounced in a different way that would shift precisely the way the next alliteration in that poem moved, and we'd catch ourselves watching nothing but those ribs the rest of her performance. Or she'd spread out her leg to show how that stretch of soft skin just at the top of her inner thigh felt just like the volta of a sonnet, and it would be nearly impossible for us to see or think of anything but that even when she would read and reveal the closing lines' resolution of the sonnet's proposition. Or she'd proudly display her back from her shoulders down to her ass, working her way into mysteries of a poem that even the poet could not explore, rather were left to the pleasure of others to adore.
And like the countless images and infinite emotions explored through centuries of poems, no matter how many of Nancy's poems you'd seen, none was ever the same. You'd swear you'd never seen her breasts like that before, noticed that way her hip turned, been so taken by the way her pubic hair dove between her legs, or ever expected her smile and her eyes to carry so simple yet so endless a touch. Like every woman, she was a new beauty every time she undressed, and she used the newness of poetic creation to show that to us at the same time she used each new poem to show us something new of woman through something new of her.
Then came one night when she burst through my lifelong shyness to reach through to my deep trust in her. As natural as it seemed by then for her to reveal her body to our friends during one of her readings, and as well as I knew everyone there and had even had more than a few intimate nights with two besides her, I never would have dreamed of following her example myself. But when asked that night for a poem, she startled me by starting to recite one of mine, one of my early attempts at a villanelle, a strict form built around two lines that repeat throughout the poem. I froze at what she might have meant by choosing my poem, then our eyes met, and I instantly surrendered to her will. I remembered writing this villanelle for her as a response to one of hers, so I knew where she was going with it.
She came over to where I was sitting as she continued reciting and slipped my shirt up off me as I raised my arms up to her. I slipped out of my shoes and stood up to face her, and she bent down slipping my jeans and panties down, moving into the core of the poem, which I recalled as having been one of the most intense moments of writing the muse had ever hit me with. She walked me to the center of the room. I felt a brief hot flush sensing everyone's gaze, that quickly replaced by a warm lasting glow as Nancy's hand tousled my hair playfully to reassure me. Then, as I closed my eyes to soak in her touch, she began the final repetition of the two main villanelle lines while tracing a fingernail lightly to draw a line starting at my forehead down over my nose and parted lips and lifted chin, down my neck to my cross over one of my breasts, across my belly and curving down to disappear between my legs then reappearing far down one of my calves down to the foot; pausing before almost whispering the final line as she traced another line back up the back of my calf then skipping up to my ass and up my back to the back of my neck and disappearing in a soft breeze of her finger through my hair. I stood as still as an artist's model feeling those two lines over and over for what seemed an eternity burning into me until they felt they met inside me, then opening my eyes to find she had quietly rejoined our other friends.
Looking down to where my body still tingled with her touch, I found she had followed the edge of a shadow made by one of the far lights across a post in the loft, and I guessed that either a similar shadow fell on my back or that she had imagined the echo of the shadow in front. I remained motionless as I looked down at what would have been the shadow's straight line follow the curves in my body, then saw it flip as my body fit into on what seemed the flow of the shadow's edge, then ease back to the shadow tracing my body, and again my body answering the shadow, rocking lightly back and forth into the repetition's of the sounds of the villanelle. Then I turned slightly to make the shadow ride up over my breast, then slowly back again, then again and again softly and slowly until the edge lay just to the side of the nipple, then turned my hip slightly the same to move the shadow's haze down into the curves, then held those two places while my body just slid into where the rest of the edge felt it wanted to go. And relaxed there for a moment feeling what that had given to the line traced up my back, the only movement in my body coming from my breathing slightly faster than usual, the only sound in the room being that pause filling in the space after the very last word of a poem.
Only then again did I become conscious that the one usually so shy and quiet now stood in the middle of a group of her friends, completely naked and just as completely absorbed in how her body felt in the light and shadows. I turned back to Nancy to thank her, then remained near the center of the room laughing and talking with our friends who now milled around once again as usual, feeling more natural than I'd ever felt before with our friends there, not getting around to putting my clothes back on for nearly an hour. And since Nancy left, when I make it up to Jen's now I'm the one frequently asked to read a poem the way she used to do so well. Only too pleased to oblige if I can do it like her own poetry, like her own body, like her own vision of beauty.
femme.maggie [at] gmail.com
Follow-up letter from Maggie shortly after publication:
Just one woman's impressions about the experience of venturing to submit a letter for DOMAI's newsletter: for me, making it into the DOMAI newsletter was very much like bathing in the company of friendly strangers whom I've found trustworthy, thereby catching another glimpse of beauty in how I am free to be and in how I am seen and appreciated as being.
As you know, I used my DOMAI letter submission opportunity to recount a treasured memory of when a very close friend led me through a discovery of my body's beauty standing nude as the focus of a poetry reading among other of our friends. Before my DOMAI letter experience will have faded into distant Internet archives and been deleted from unknown computer caches, I will have stepped out of my clothes into my bath again and again through that letter and through DOMAI's sensitive regards, inviting new friends to share the very intimate pleasure I had both during that remembered occasion and again through its exposure at DOMAI.
Drafting my letter to DOMAI felt almost like carefully planning how I might repeat my letter's memory of semi-private undressing through the process of the letter itself, then to take it further and more intimate, to make myself naked for strangers I knew would understand, then to openly share with them some of my personal rituals, some of the private time that makes me Maggie. Obviously I knew the facts of the past experience I wished to relate in my letter as well as I carry through my standard morning routines, but I selectively advance-edited down to a manageable account the way I might choose one variation among the numerous bath-time games I've been known to play. Then composing the draft letter the way I might imagine over and over, from what I would wear into my bathroom and how I might disrobe, all the way step by step to toweling off afterward. Then re-reading my letter repeatedly, taking on the perspectives of various readers, as though thinking through how different guests to my bathroom might react to my exposure, how they might keep me company, perhaps even how they might help me wash and rinse and dry off.
Realizing as I recited my letter to myself one last time aloud that no matter how empty the place is when I bathe, ever since that experience when my friend undressed me for our other friends I have always consciously taken my clothes off as though I had someone watching me do so, yet had almost always then have entered my bath as though alone with myself in my most complete solitude. And yet is not beauty's moment at its greatest when it is not alone? When it is seen. When it is freely shared and openly enjoyed. And so, finally submitting my letter to DOMAI, as though turning to a trusted friend to request he run a hot scented bath for me and put up a pot of coffee.
I admit, having my letter first surface in DOMAI's founder's blog was quite a pleasant surprise, like happening into my bathroom an hour ahead of schedule to prepare something, only to find both the bathtub and the shower running, and several special guests already doing coffee and danish there in my bathroom. So I flashed a big smile at my host's thoughtfulness and added a few playful pinches of extra contact aside from the letter itself, like slipping out of my bathrobe without further thought to my earlier plans, then simply enjoying a luxurious shower while awaiting the main event. So nice to have a shower stall with clear glass walls I can steam up!
At last, publication of my letter in DOMAI's newsletter! - like stepping out of the shower without a robe or towel when all our guests have arrived, introducing myself and greeting everyone warmly while the water beads up and drips down my body. Hi, I'm Maggie! I'm the one who submitted this week's letter to DOMAI. So pleased to share your company here as I relax in my bath while it's being read! Giving everyone ample time to check out your dear author from every angle: maybe into my mid-20s, just a smidgen over 5 feet short when I'm up on my toes, my long auburn hair dark from the shower's wet clinging half down my back, my grayish brown eyes just off the edge of a rustic green flashing sparks against a pert little grin over the fun we're all having, deep tan glowing golden through the water drops glistening on my breasts and belly and hips, the bit of silver jewelry Nancy left me filling my navel, the short little strip I've trimmed my pubic hair down to, my arms and sides and hips and legs just a shade on the side of needing a little dinner after my bath, all down to how my toe ring looks always set to run or maybe stay to dance awhile. Sensing internet traffic's hits on my letter's page as though aware of the mirrored walls of the bathroom, aware how closely so many eyes followed me from the shower to the bath, aware how charged up I felt being so very much at home.
And finally holding my breath hoping everyone will enjoy their reading, like how I would hope everyone might savor my labia's loveliness as I turn to check the water temperature, one leg lifting high as I very slowly bend down over my bath. Then feeling my letter ease down into the DOMAI embrace like easing down into my bath and relaxing back ah yes, I could stay there splashing and sliding and soaking and soaping up and rinsing off all morning long without complaint.
Oh most certainly, to be sure, all in all I only shared a simple letter, as natural a delight as having company in during that little bath. No grand agenda, no special message, no need to get anything in particular across. Just me and you enjoying the pleasure of a touch of beauty and warm smiles together all around. Nice. Very nice. So then, just like toying with the idea of maybe jumping back into the shower for another round with the pulse setting, I could so easily consider submitting another letter. But then again, I wouldn't want to be selfish and deny anyone else this experience. Maybe I could at least stick around long enough to scrub our next author's back? Or maybe until DOMAI's next newsletter edition, I might relax here all week, like just ditching the towel and instead spreading myself out every which way to dripdry on fresh bedsheets, hoping nobody has to leave just yet . . . .
femme.maggie [at] gmail.com