Reciprocal

By James Davis May

Featured Art: Woman’s Head by Albert Besnard

She says, I think you think too much
when you talk dirty.

They are, in fact,
having sex when she says this—
he’s above her and had just kissed
the inside of her ankle, which now rests
on his shoulder. He asks what she means.

I mean, you’re too, I don’t know,
exact, like you’re trying to not sound stupid
even though that’s what you should sound like—
you shouldn’t be thinking.

He slows down,
almost stops but doesn’t.
It’s the sort of comment, he thinks,
that would make a passionate person
stop and leave the room, then the house,
viciously dressing while cursing.
He doesn’t want to and isn’t even
that hurt, more perplexed, really:
how does one make a conscious effort
to become unconscious?

Then that suspicion again that because
he seems incapable of having them,
then the emotional acts of others—
the exhibitionistic weeping
of the woman in the audience at that morning’s talk
on the mortality figures in Darfur
and those sappy Lite FM dedications
(probably made by the same people
who clap at the airport when they see soldiers)—
must be, if not lies, then forms of propaganda
intended to usurp what moral credit they can.

But that he keeps making love seems
only more proof of the chronic hollowness
he has made a life of finding and forgetting,
the tragic version of the rabbit hole
he remembers before mowing the lawn
and steps into anyway.

*

Talk to me. Talk to me,
baby. Tell me what you want.

I want the holiness of morning fog, the shock
of imagining a hawk and then seeing one flash by.

No, tell me what you want—

I want my glance from your face
to the restaurant’s mirror to be quick enough
to catch me still looking at you.

Tell me what you want
to do to me.

I want to do what you want me to do.

I want you to want to do what I want you to do
without you wanting to do it because I want you to.

Well, good then, that’s exactly what I want too.


James Davis May is the author of the poetry collection Unquiet Things. He lives in Macon, Georgia.

Originally appeared in NOR 14.

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