I came to you after the scars, came to your skin
In our fifth decade when it wears its past,
Two pale circles at the base of your spine
Almost glowing in the dark, and on the other side,
Your navel gone, taken in the surgery that almost
Took you. I am beginning to know your skin,
The warmth of it even when you are cold,
Your long bones and muscle, expanse of your back,
Which draws my fingers to it, and I think, never
Will I grow tired of leaning against you or
Lying on you or beneath you and feeling the full length
Of you. I went my entire adult life waiting for you—
Don’t be afraid—waiting for the man who was like
My first love—Don’t find me shallow—so tall
And warm and present, so needful and generous,
So alive in my life in every moment. I have just realized
The connection as these words hit the paper.
And now, I want to compose a theory about how one’s skin
Remembers its first love and roams all its years in search
Of that love in a similar form—theory based on the premise
That it doesn’t get that love, that is doesn’t develop
A lifelong relationship with it, that—oh needful to the theory—
That first love is short and bittersweet because we all know
The stories of teens marrying and quickly realizing
The mistake or old couples regretting the years spent together
In misery because they married their first love. No, the warrant
Must be that the first love is intense and fleeting and imprints
Its smoke on the skin, a scent magnified over the years,
That allows the flesh without input from the mind to live
A life separate from the intellectual one. And one day, oh
That it happens to you whoever you are—speaking
In the non-specific second person now—that your skin
Absorbs that smoke in another, that you find it, that you find
Something your mind had pooh-poohed long ago as sentimental
And the foolish remnants of lustful youth, the indulgence
Of teenage drama, the heady spike and dive of emotion.
And now my theory must know—speaking in the specific
Second person now—was your first love reminiscent of me?
Am I the smoke trail your skin has been following through
The years when we had no knowledge of one another and almost
Did not meet that night in the Hard Rock Casino in front
Of Toby Keith’s restaurant, next to the line to get into the Joint
To see Ian Anderson, himself a remnant of Jethro Tull?
Even amidst the cigarette smoke and perfume and chatter,
The bingitty bing bang bang bang of the slots and the clatter
Of coins, the carpety smell of spilled beer and charred steaks,
Did you smell me? I am not sure I want an answer.
This theory is new to me, obviously, coming as it has
In the middle of a poem that was just supposed to be
About my enjoyment of your skin. I will not think less
Of you if your response is “No.” I will probably think less
Of my theory, unless this poem becomes public and masses
Of people contact me (because masses of people read poetry,
You know, and even a large percentage of that mass
Of the masses reads mine . . . uh yeah) to tell me that I
Am so on track with this theory! You are, right, Shaun.
How did I never notice that before? Or You may be right,
Shaun. Now I know what to look for—or what my skin
Is looking for. My theory will be researched, studied,
And documented in the next edition of Scientific Poetics.
Now . . . about your skin . . .