You Find Yourself Staring

by jdavidcharles

A poem I began writing for Biola University’s literary journal, the Inkslinger, whose topic this year is “gender.” Given the broad topic (there’s a misogynistic pun in there somewhere) I thought I would write a poem wherein gender is at the fringe of the poem, in the images, characters, but ultimately absent. I was thinking of AR Ammons’ wonderful poem Unsaid, thinking of poetry’s fabulous capacity to reveal emptiness or void. Thus my hope was to somewhat show this empty (or, to use a more positive term, “open”) quality of gender and personhood (subjects). I hope you enjoy!


You Find Yourself Staring


You find yourself staring at the first morning specks of crust

in your girlfriend’s left eye, similar, you note, to your second

oldest brother, the one you shared a bunk bed with in grade


school, her stretching and yawning and far from erotic stench

spread out before you, her various intimacies of bodily dismay,

the rinse and spit of teeth brushing recalls a sailor setting forth


to sea on the froth of a foaming mouth, the return of the spit

cup reminiscent of a butcher, large, Albanian perhaps, leaning

to grab slabs of meat from the top stretches of his furthest shelf


of sheep gut—how can you not help but notice those first few

early sprouts of hair along her inner thigh, chest, or belly? You

grow convinced over time to tell her she reminds you of Cassius


Clay, particularly at the ends of those quasi-lectures, about who

met who at wherever and how it made her feel, her groaning

to the tone of a later Allen Ginsberg, grown old, roughly sounding


an Hare Krishna mantra, Blake-like vision, the songs of Whitman,

but, just before you can tell her anything, something about her

fragile piece of hair-tie suspended gingerly, finger to finger along


her wrist, the play of it from hand to hair back to hand again, seems to

say—you know, she starts, you are not the feminist lesbian graduate

student, eyeing the girls in her first period discussion group, you’re


not even the shy anthropology major with her not-so-secret crush

on her backpacking instructor, your morning walks have never reminded

me of a lone poetess hiking the trails of southern Chile, mad with hysteria,


pack filled to the brim with cucumber, raw almond, peanut and flax,

how you could ever think yourself Simone de Beauvoir or French at all for

that matter is, in fact, entirely beyond me, you could never look good


in heels—she pauses—because you are the lone flight attendant

from Milwaukee, middle-aged, whose perfume scents of musty rose-petal

from cabin to business class, cart firm in hand, saying to the passengers


as you idle by: “Do try the San Juan fish encrusted in macadamia nut,

with a light honey rum glaze—mixed pre-packaged nuts perhaps—that will

be 17.50—cash only please—what was that? white wine? ginger ale?”