One long, dry summer,
we were as close
as an electric storm on the way,
and the sweet, toasty smell of your
corn husks hanging in my pantry
was the perfume of a dusty, Southern longing.
I thought you an old man-
selfish and virile-
but really only sixty-three.
I once cut your sparse, grey hair,
while I secretly bled,
repelled by the deep, ingrained cracks
in the leathery skin
of your sun-toughened neck.
We met for bitter coffee, most weeks,
and you brought me piles of library books
smelling of applewood smoke,
and you lent me a recording
of Spanish songs se llama ‘Cantemos en Espanol’
(El Unicornio, Ojala, La Maza)…
I used to drink gin and smoke bindies
and listen to Mercedes Sosa’s
beautiful, sad groanings
in my orange vinyl and plywood caravan-
would lie weeping, heavy, lethargic,
my inner thighs itching with sweat
on the orange foam mattress,
and I’d be filled to a hot aching
with a new desire,
and with the sweet, burnt dust-memory
of corn shucks.
Secretly, I would play a tape
on which you’d recorded yourself
reading ‘Sunstone’ in your graveled tones
(or perhaps it was Borges…),
the Spanish words a sand-sifting, a delicious seduction,
a secret fever that I kept hidden.
You were almost indifferent to me-
I knew that-
but it seemed you had dryly breathed me back to life.
My troubled core an earth-oven of longing,
the aftermath of my closetings was always tainted
with the smoky, toasted musk of corn husks.