Five Panties on the Clothesline
Agricultural Technical School, Ghana, 2006
panties on the clothesline flutter,
two-year old to ancient auntie.
stop to frame what artlessly entices,
shining hot in sunlight pink.
escort questions why I stare:
can it please the man from overseas
panties in the breeze?"
hangs a tale, mine, not theirs,
it fetish or predilection,
not the breasts I hold as beauty
anasyrma gesture, caught looking
question as if to ask "Am I perfect?"
she is divine!)
clothesline sequence touches on expectation, not mine,
though not the ones seen through:
laborers who made it to the well-known
but those, so tiny, on the edge of hopes,
baby odysseys of make-believe.
see myself in each of these, the vert gallant,
lover's tease, a moment in a fantasy,
stranger's view of panties in the breeze.
This is winter
a naked-woman with a shawl,
head and breasts sculpture-bare or nearly.
And beauty's escape from violence,
she's a vine entwined in the telling since long ago:
a laurel leap from escapee to tree.
There is no cure for what's revealed.
Art's empathy pours out in hot pursuit,
figures seen in crowded space
in solid metaphors unlike these abstract
words lined up in stanzas also wrapped
against the cold, escaping into living vines,
places where we tear off clothes, step out
into the open, twist into self's other,
run in space, frozen naked.
W.M. Rivera's most recent collection of poems is a
chapbook titled The Living Clock from
Finishing Line Press (2013). His full-length collection, Buried in the Mind's Backyard (BrickHouse
Books, 2011), has a cover print by Miguel Conde, one of Spain's prominent
artists, and is available from Itascabooks.com and Amazon. Born in New
Orleans, he began publishing poetry in the 1950s. His early poetry appeared
under the names William Rivera and William McLeod Rivera in The Nation, Prairie Schooner, the Kenyon Review,
and The New Laurel Review among other
publications. Recent poems have appeared in the California Quarterly, Gargoyle, Ghazal, and Broome Review. His first book of poems, The End of Legend's String, was published in 1960 and illustrated
by Mexican artist, Jose Luis Cuevas. Rivera's professional activities in
agricultural development have taken him to more than 30 countries in Africa,
Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Retired from the University of Maryland, he
has only recently returned to poetry.