I’ve seen her around town before—she’s dreadlocked, blonde,
distinctive, a warrior. Today she wears shorts, & I admire her
musculature, the way her tattoos of birds on one leg coil & uncoil
with each step of her foot. She’s immediately interesting to me.
Our eyes lock & she challenges me. Her eyes are cold & worldly,
her face flat & expressionless—she is a shield, already tougher
than I’ll ever be. I know she thinks we’re not kindred spirits.
My interest isn’t returned. Her piercing eyes refuse taking me in,
reject me out of hand. I sense something coiled & fierce within
her. Why do you adorn yourself if you don’t want me to look
or watch you? I adorn my body for me & for those who I want
to search & caress me with their eyes—not you. I can’t muster
smile or comment. I sue for peace, look away. She strides on.
I didn’t think so, her stride says. I mean no offense—it’s just this:
I don’t know how to look at women or men, children or anyone
out of the confines of work & occasional literary events I attend.
I can’t explain this unending awkwardness, this reluctance, this
dread. She strides into the future. I watch her into the distance
until she disappears behind a building. I hope your eyes thaw
& warm for someone. I wait for my bus, my ride into the past.
Andrew Shattuck McBride
October 2, 2012
PaPoWriMo ~ 2012 *Day Seven Poem*
Wow–brilliant. Very courageous of you to take on the power politics of the gaze, which is SO complicated, especially across genders. Put desire, appreciation, or even curiosity onto “the field,” and the interaction gets even more fraught with danger. You parse the battle beautifully here–the images of war are very fitting. Framing the poem as a personal narrative keeps the perspective honest and respectful.
Jennifer, thank you so much for your comments.
I wasn’t sure how this would be received.