Issue 1:2 | Poetry | Michael McFee
I found their snapshot buried at the bottom
of 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 caught
not with one of the girlie magazines
(a teasing peak at breasts, some skin, no more)
borrowed from older boys across the street
but 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 left
and firmly closed the bedroom door behind me.
I never found that friendly pair again,
though later I learned there were some naturists
who 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 Clothed
to a place where only sun and wind dressed them?
Or did they just like to look at him and her
before or after love, or now and then,
a smaller younger happier version
of what they were, of what they might have been?

Uncased, it's a bulging ceiling
stained by seepage from a leaky roof.
How could her sleeping head have sweated so,
its yellow dreams sinking
through pillowcases for years, whatever the season,
soaking this ticking?
It's a swollen sheet of paper
troubled by a nightmare wash of clouds.
What smoky signals was her brain sending
to the pillow's foam brain
as 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.
It was an ugly slab of rough concrete
or warped green boards carved and stained
by greasy sticky previous picnickers
but still we'd pack the creaking station wagon
with hungry relatives and cardboard boxes
full of deviled-egg luster under wax paper
and fried chicken's golden warm aroma
and the moist strata of granny's coconut cake
then drive for what felt like forever, starving,
till dad saw a blue sign for one just ahead
and pulled off into a shady dirt turnout
between the busy highway and some river
where we all waited while meticulous aunts
brushed off the crumby weathered surfaces
then unfolded a tablecloth of newspapers
which we held down with the now-cooled feast
before suffering through interminable grace
and loading our flimsy plates with layers
of food as if we never ate at home,
as if we didn't have our own picnic table
around which, anytime, we all could gather.
Tourists driving by us might have laughed
at this simple mountain clan that had to eat
at a borrowed wayside table, too dirt-poor
to afford an inside dining room of their own,
just as shoulder-walkers were to be pitied
for not having enough money to own a car,
but they'd have been wrong: it was pure holiday
to linger in that place, in public privacy
between the currents of road and water,
cooled by the luxurious breezes of both
as cousins skipped flat rocks to the far bank
or waded on shivering legs into the river
and cigarette smoke rose toward the understory
and the ripening barrels hummed electric with bees
and watermelon seeds shone blackly under the laurels.
Michael McFee