from THE KISS OF WALT WHITMAN IS STILL ON MY LIPS*
Deafened at the age of eight months, I learned to hear
through the stainless steel shells of my body aids
shoehorned into my harness bra. I was an analog cyborg.
I learned to speak from feeling the vibrations
in my speech therapist's throat, and mine too.
My nasal sandpapery voice singles me out in a crowd.
Using the language of hands was forbidden.
Until I learned Sign, I had to make do with watching
the mystery and misery of lips masticating words.
When I need a reprieve from lipreading
I call upon memories of heading into the woods
across the street from the house where I grew up.
There, nature sang songs I could hear perfectly
without my hearing aids. I lay there, quaking naked
on a beach towel, afraid of being caught and yet
yearning for this or that man I'd spotted earlier that day.
Sparrows, strung along on power lines cutting a swath,
never flittered about the pearls of peas in my hands.
My body naked full of landmines is this:
explosions of tiny freckles underneath my face,
no trace of a flesh-colored mole shave off my nose,
a cleft in chin hidden in the tangle of beard,
a tiny toad wart on my right index finger,
a trio of gallbladder removal scars under ribcage,
a shiny knee patch from a scooter accident,
my back covered with the poison ivy of fur.
Who'd want to sleep with this scarred creature?
I dream of catching you, Walt, on the smoking patio
behind the Minneapolis Eagle. You'd wear a t-shirt,
jeans and sandals; hold up a pint of lager in your hand.
Kiss me in front of everyone. How could I resist
the you, that sexy doe-eyed man, your hand to chin,
who Mathew Brady had photographed a few times?
My desire breaks out in beads of sweat. I must leave.
The sound of your phone vibrating startles you.
It's me texting you: Can you stay with me tonight?