I found their snapshot buried at the bottomof my parents' jumbled bedside table drawer:a normal couple, somewhere out of doors,smiling big for the camera, holding hands,each of them wearing black socks, blacker shoes,and nothing else: naked, totally naked,and totally unaroused or unashamed,just standing there like it was no big deal.And then my mother walked in. I was caughtnot with one of the girlie magazines(a teasing peak at breasts, some skin, no more)borrowed from older boys across the streetbut with this photo she and dad had hidden,this dangling Adam, this pale and drooping Eve.Their pubic hair was deeper than outer space."Who are these people?" My voice nearly broke."Oh, those are just the nudists, dear," she said,then took the picture and waited till I leftand firmly closed the bedroom door behind me.I never found that friendly pair again,though later I learned there were some naturistswho ran a colony in the next county,way out in the hills, a place called Eden View.Did my parents ever go, or think about it,before two children ruined both their bodies?And did they meet the nudists in the snapshot,emigrants from the Empire of the Clothedto a place where only sun and wind dressed them?Or did they just like to look at him and herbefore or after love, or now and then,a smaller younger happier versionof what they were, of what they might have been?
OLD PILLOWUncased, it's a bulging ceilingstained by seepage from a leaky roof.How could her sleeping head have sweated so,its yellow dreams sinkingthrough pillowcases for years, whatever the season,soaking this ticking?It's a swollen sheet of papertroubled by a nightmare wash of clouds.What smoky signals was her brain sendingto the pillow's foam brainas she lay beside him through the cool still nights,quietly oozing away?It's a spirit-headstone, faintly marbled.It's the veronica that some god leaves through us.
ROADSIDE TABLEIt was an ugly slab of rough concreteor warped green boards carved and stainedby greasy sticky previous picnickersbut still we'd pack the creaking station wagonwith hungry relatives and cardboard boxesfull of deviled-egg luster under wax paperand fried chicken's golden warm aromaand the moist strata of granny's coconut cakethen drive for what felt like forever, starving,till dad saw a blue sign for one just aheadand pulled off into a shady dirt turnoutbetween the busy highway and some riverwhere we all waited while meticulous auntsbrushed off the crumby weathered surfacesthen unfolded a tablecloth of newspaperswhich we held down with the now-cooled feastbefore suffering through interminable graceand loading our flimsy plates with layersof food as if we never ate at home,as if we didn't have our own picnic tablearound which, anytime, we all could gather.Tourists driving by us might have laughedat this simple mountain clan that had to eatat a borrowed wayside table, too dirt-poorto afford an inside dining room of their own,just as shoulder-walkers were to be pitiedfor not having enough money to own a car,but they'd have been wrong: it was pure holidayto linger in that place, in public privacybetween the currents of road and water,cooled by the luxurious breezes of bothas cousins skipped flat rocks to the far bankor waded on shivering legs into the riverand cigarette smoke rose toward the understoryand the ripening barrels hummed electric with beesand watermelon seeds shone blackly under the laurels