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Jennifer White
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A Husband and Wife in the Woods at a Nudist Camp, N.J., 1963

On a photograph by Diane Arbus


I like to look at her imperfections:
the droopy shoulders, the lop-sided breasts,
and on her abdomen, the inflections
of a scar that ends just above the nest

of her pubic hair. Mostly, her wide hips
are the magnet to which my eyes return,
partly because of her head and her flip-
flopped feet that seem so small. A misshapen urn.

A child’s top. Even her gaze is askew.
He, on the other hand, is the picture
of symmetry: his eyes look straight into
mine through the camera’s narrow aperture;

his nose, navel, prick form a y-axis
on the Cartesian graph of his body.
I could chart the coordinates of his
nipples easily, despite my shoddy

math skills. Does she, I wonder, flesh them out
with her mouth, or is she as demure as
she appears? Maybe he shows her the route
to trace. Maybe she suckles like she is

his baby. He is so clearly her guide.
Their nudity allows me to leap right
to their sex life: they have no place to hide,
there are no fig leaves around (he holds bright

car keys in his hand, but they are too small,
too cold). Besides, they joined the colony
to be free, to recapture a pre-Fall
mood. God. She seems so different from me.

She might be the perfect, the intended,
Eve. Who would refuse, dry-mouthed, pure, to slake
her thirst with the fruit. No matter how red.
Who would, with certainty, turn from the snake.

I know this: I would have to stare, eyes big,
without power or desire to restrain
myself. The thick muscle moving over twigs,
through grass. Hypnotic green of shifting skin

and scales. Eyes like amber with onyx slits.
Forked tongue caressing soft S-sounds. All for
me. So beautiful, this serpent, and yet,
so evil. How to resist, to ignore

the flirtation, the parched throat? The tension,
like sweet meat, between awe and revulsion?

 

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