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When I was a boy with braces 
and only nine astonished hairs 
sprouted from my pink nipples
I wrestled
in a bed 
swirling with sweaty sheets
an angel
an incubus 
a seraph 
a fiend.

I pounded my palms against its pectoral planes.
Slid my hand between its corded thighs
seeking something hard as I was-
heat and hunger
dripped in my pits 
and slicked my fingers.

Drunk with damnation,
breathless from my own locker room tang,
my eyes rolled up
a downward tug, 
twist of muscles-
Christ on the cross,
boys bending,
the baseball star washing his car.
I chewed the pillowcase
dry with no release...

Today I look at boys and men--
hairy sheen, shanks and angles,
swinging joints and cleft surfaces--
the same way I look at
cardinals darting, gold finches flickering,
weeping willows and stoic oaks.
In the same way I look at
eggplants, onions, peppers and leeks
piled high in a hand-hewn bowl.

The craving has uncoiled 
from my crotch, less hot
soaked my skin, settled in my marrow, filled my teeth.

I encounter in each body
hints of the blessing
for which I was wrestling

ridges and furrows 
on the face of God.
-Mark J. Royse
June 2, 2000
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