In hindsight, it's easy to say my first
love was better than all of those
who have followed her: the forty-five
year old women on first dates bedecked
in apple blossoms and animal-print
underwear, the steely twenty-somethings
with their uncanny gift for doubt,
recitation and self-splendor,
the sweet but syphilitic matrons
in bars who hold their cigarettes
like darts and shake sometimes
as they discourse on their one
true love and how he let them down.
I was foolish to expect grace,
I realize that now, to think the future
would feel guilty for the past's mistakes.
Yet I more than half-envisioned
a kind of genderless joy that would
nonetheless include me and the opposite
sex: a backyard rose garden, perhaps,
or a Dixie-throated chanteuse
strumming a banjo and swallowing
unnecessary syllables. Lobster sauce
and Chardonnay with a bosomy
chatterbox who'd seen it all
and had lots of interesting things to tell.
You're sneering by now, I'm sure,
and probably my fantasies deserve it.
But my advice--and don't take this
as a threat--is to avoid getting uppity.
The polish you think has hidden
the scratches underneath will thin
and chip. What's intact won't stay.
I'm not saying change is a mistake,
but I am saying that the sphere resting
on the corner of your desk is a guess,
an estimation. You think you feel
the mountains, but they're just bumps,
it's a cardboard globe, it's not the world.
David Starkey teaches in the writing program at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and is the author of a textbook, Poetry Writing: Theme and Variations (NTC, 1999), as well as several books of poems from small presses, most recently Fear of Everything, winner of Palanquin Press's Spring 2000 chapbook contest. He has work in recent or forthcoming issues of GSU Review, Open City, Paumanok Review, The Pedestal, Rattle, Red Rock Review, and Stirring.