(dir. Gregg Araki, 1992)
My mother says it’s the way our backs bend,
the way of all women in the family:
our bodies a twist of concave and convex,
mine mossed in black instead of etched
with red stretch marks. Before cameras I parody
an aging gay man—stand up straight,
suck in my stomach, mark in the missing inches
the difference between a bear and an otter.
If I were some tragic beauty, abducted or lost
to disease, this would be a poem worth writing.
Instead, Sarah says to keep my back
straight when I deadlift. Duane lies and says that I am more
attractive now than when he met me.
All I know is that I didn’t have this problem
before I had children. Then I was somewhere
between a twink and an otter depending
on how much of a swimmer I wanted to see in me.
Then I had an ego that saw myself wasting away,
my already lean muscles atrophied,
my core a shell for miniature digestive organs.
Now I lift more, run more, swim more to survive
a hundred-pound teenage boy
who complains that no real Big Mac is as pretty
as the picture and plays Xbox in a tank-top
that reads I flexed and my sleeves fell off.
At Lake Hartwell in the summer, we play Water Monster.
I toss him so many times that toward the end
I can barely break the surface with his newly hairy feet.
He has what Luke likes best about guy’s bodies—
the line that bisects their torso, traces itself
around their tummy. On the dock, Duane teaches me
how to back flip—Like a kettlebell swing—
by hanging my heels off the edge. We have thick legs
from so many squats, but I land on my back
like a whale—only not so lithe—and feel the slap
in the back of my eyes. At least I can still throw him.
We are mid-thirties. Our belies are soft.
My friends and I who came of age after AIDS
are too old now to fuck the boys who jog through campus
in crotch-high shorts. We laugh and call them Skeletors.
We write poems instead that kiss their lower backs,
measure the press of their stomachs against our foreheads.
My husband has a strict rule against foolishness:
poetry, twinks, exercise more than three times a week.
He floats on his back in shallow water,
his belly a white sand island to which our son swims for safety
I plant my heels and bend to breath.
On screen, Luke ends the anatomy lesson—
Is that thoroughly killer or what?—
as the camera cuts from bellies to faces.
My son says the fat keep my six-pack safe.
My mother says I look better now, not so brittle.