The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 12 1996 3:30 AM

The Naked Eye

To hear the poet read "The Naked Eye," click here or on the title.


The small stage he's sitting snug against is radiant
as an operating table on which the naked dancer
doubled in the mirrored backdrop dances before him
simultaneously from both sides at once, blond crotch
And jiggling ass, nipple and churning shoulderblade.

If he's aware of us at all, my friends and I,
in a back booth farthest from the stage, what are we
but the proverbial rubes, sight-seeing frat boys
on a sleazy lark, too loud, too talkative, giggling
uneasy ironies about being where we'd never go alone.

If we annoy him, the annoyance must be somehow
necessary to his pleasure, the rising of it sweeter
for the last tug of a defeated gravity--as feeble
now, as faraway, as being anybody's son or father.
For he seems all gaze, nudging a dollar toward her.

And she, her back to him, seems only what she shows
as she bends over, reaching between her splayed legs
to pick it up, her face a moment upside down
beneath her crotch, her pink tongue flickering level
with the face she watches watching her, the face void

of expression, dense as stone, clinical as light,
unmoved, as if the fantasy is that there isn't one,
that she isn't dancing any gesture of what she
imagines he imagines she would feel like if he
were doing to her what she pretends he does.

The fantasy is wholly of the eye. The eye is his.
The eye is lordly. Only imagine it as thinking:
Let the frat boys hoard how her fingertips have eased
the hidden lips back to the moist interior, let them
smuggle home to other women pale simulations

of themselves still outside watching what they only
enter in the dark, what in the dark they only feel
Only imagine it, and it is yours, your eye, and mine,
no less imperiously moving over him as his moves
over the places in her she has never seen.

It is a seer's eye moving lordly through the bar,
over all of us its rapture cool, so otherworldly,
who here can deny that hidden craving is abroad,
and that the cure lies in the body spread before us
that the eye alone is shrewd enough to read.

Alan Shapiro's most recent book of poems, Mixed Company, and his memoir, The Last Happy Occasion, were both published this year.