THE NINTH COMMANDMENT (by Barney F. McClelland)

For this, I traveled an hour through
snow and Christmas traffic –
Latte-sipping, graduate program poets
and an uncomfortable chair.

An earnest young man stands,
delivers his vision of innocence.
A childhood peopled with grandfathers
hunting for arrowheads and fossils
in dry creek beds in Connecticut
or Kentucky – I can’t remember which –
my attention taken by her, his girl.
Adoring, yet cool, in her smart girl glasses,
black hair wound tight as watch springs,
and those legs, long enough
to hold your shoulders like a vise.

He now tells us he is a tree –
imagining his leafy fingers
outstretched to the sky –
while I imagine mine
reaching under her blouse.
I ask myself why he isn’t writing about her?
As he tells how his branches scrape the water
her branches scraping my back,
The wind sings to him,
She nearly breaks my eardrum
with her screaming.
He tastes the summer rain
I taste blood where she’s
bitten my lower lip.

Now he’s in a schoolroom
in Indiana or Illinois,
his obsession with geography brings
me back to earth and the question
of why doesn’t he write about her?
But, he will – someday – the day she leaves him
and every day after that
when she steps out of his
vision of innocence and
into someone’s a little less so.