I stared at the bones of my adolescent toes,
the shadowed, Catholic, insubstantial flesh,
letting all my yearnings loose in flood.
Connie, my dark-eyed partner in mystery,
Frannie and Mary Anne, sweet, untouchable,
the girls whose names I didn't even know:
here, here at the beginning of discovery
of women, I ached for knowledge, for assurance.
I would feed, if I could, feed their beauty
into the slot on the floor of the machine,
ignoring the slick-haired shoestore clerks,
to see the womanly toes, the long, elastic,
living legs, their secret joining (oh, I wanted!)
at that warm and cloistered place. And more:
the chamber deeper where I trembled.
And more: the two gossamer horns curled
to clasp the pearly eggs; the pulsing heart;
the graceful hoops of rib. And more: the face,
transparent, undefended, yearning too, open
even to a boy. The brain, illuminated by desire,
whorls and folds a sudden secret language
that now could teach my tongue, that now
yielding at last to this merciless and mortal light
could speak to me the everlasting truth of love.