Not praise a man? What cautious voice
Shall reprehend should we rejoice
In brave dreams? And why that habitual
Circumspect, tiresome figleaf ritual?
A man may sing of thighs and breast
Thus garnering praise, so we protest
That it should be so grave a crime
To delineate a man in rhyme.
We bow to whimsies, not régimes
That organise the stuff of dreams.
His skin may not be silk, we know
His hair is rough, his brow not snow
And how hard flank and belly slips
Into a curious lack of hips:
But while the world averts its eyes
We’ll press warm kisses on his thighs.
And unlike woman, mourning her
Mirrored self unlovelier
Each year, his gentle, wiser mouth
Smiles at the crudities of youth
And, rolling up his sleeves to bare
Tanned forearms fierce with springy hair,
Hand moves to hand, wrist touches wrist …
Then, then she weeps who is unkissed,
Then can she be no longer mute
But sings of truths made absolute
That heal what first they both incise
With subtle blades — his voice, his eyes.
*In reply to Dorothy Auchterlonie’s poem, ‘The Problem of Language’, Meanjin Quarterly 2/1966. See also ‘Feast on these Words’ by Anne Holman, p. 434.