Stephen Cushman

Ars Erotica

When it comes to the most important stuff,
forget the decorative folderol,
the fiddling around with flourishes,
knickknacks of innovation, experimental
excrescences, and get back down
to the simplified chastity
of a blue ink line,

Picasso's drawing of a woman on her back
in bed, naked, head and shoulders propped
upon a single pillow, who spreads her thighs so wide
she forms with her legs a shallow M,
silently spelling
the sound in her throat,

while at the center of that M, the ball of her left foot
buttressing her against the bedroom wall, a face
of a friend, short-haired, androgynous,
appears in profile with protruding tongue.

Whatever else that tongue
can or cannot do, whether it speaks several languages fluently
or only one with a limited vocabulary,
something about it causes her hands
to cover her eyes. Why? Is she ashamed
in the gaze of an understood onlooker, determined
to see no evil in such a scene, or trying
to block out all distraction
and intensify
her simmer into highest boiling?

Perhaps she's pretending
her attentive partner is somebody else? Oh, maybe it's just
their private game, a kind of secret peekaboo
they like to play on weekday afternoons.
No matter. What matters more, my dear,
is how it's all the same to us,
blue ink, blue eyes, and when you smile
like her you know
there's nothing simple about simple style.