Michael McFee has two new books in 2006: his seventh collection of poetry,
Shinemaster, from Carnegie Mellon University Press, publisher of his previous
books Earthly (2001) and Colander (1996); and his first book of prose, The Napkin
Manuscripts: Selected Essays and an Interview, from the University of Tennessee
Press. His new poems have appeared recently or are due soon in Threepenny
Review, Hudson Review, and Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South
(University of North Carolina Press). He teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill.
"Take us off," they whispered to him constantly: they were an affront, a Puritan veiling of original Eve, exasperating packaging to be removed so that the gorgeous cargo of her body could be properly admired and handled.
"Put us on and keep us on," they said to her: they were just pieces of cloth, matter-of-fact cover-up, fabric needed to hide what needed to be hid. She didn't mind the marks they pressed into her skin all day, or her nightgown’s light smothering.
The clothes were just amusing themselves: they didn't really care one way or the other, though none of them wanted to be chosen at the end, pulled from their temporary dark, fastened to her body in that airtight horizontal closet.
Once Salax was roaming the woods, consumed – as usual – with lust.
He came upon a tree he'd never noticed before: it was roughly his size, yet fully mature. As he studied it, the tree seemed to develop a womanly shape: in fact, there were delicate twin knots on its trunk that resembled nipples. Looking around, to be sure he was alone, Salax began to suckle them, and they came alive under his lips. His right hand fell to a soft opening below, which he gently stroked until it grew moist and he became greatly aroused, and entered it, and filled the tree with his seed. And it shook terribly as he did so.
Overcome with shame, he ran away. But he returned the next day, and the next, and did the same again. And soon the tree bore a fruit, which Salax could not resist picking once it was ripe, though the tree withered instantly once he did so, and though the fruit proved inedible, good only – once he’d polished the unbitten part - for studying his own image in its skin.
The first time he took her home, she asked him where all those little holes in the front of his t-shirt came from, and he said "beer moths" and laughed, which she didn't get till the next morning when she saw him open another Bud with his dirty shirt twisted around the cap so its metal teeth nicked cotton instead of skin, and when he lay back down she tried to plug all those gaps with her fluttering fingers but there were too many for her to cover, his belly kept pouring its soft shine through, she simply couldn't hold him back.
Freud dreams he's staying in a wealthy patient's apartment in a large city, standing in an empty room with very high ceilings, looking out one of the tall curtainless windows raised to let a summer breeze blow through. Other apartment buildings press all around, with someone framed in every lit window, staring straight at him. Despite the audience of strangers, he suddenly becomes quite aroused, and must gratify himself, and does so with such vigor that - right at the longed-for moment - the head of his member pops off and hits the bare floor and starts bouncing away at unpredictable angles, gathering speed, always just beyond his reach. And before he can catch or corner the errant tip, it bounds through one of the open windows and down to the narrow street, where he sees a pack of boys chasing after what they think is a strange new rubber ball, its arcs leading them toward the dark river.
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