She loathes television's depiction of women
as gun-toters with breasts hanging out over
their necklines and skirts up to their elsewhere.
Eighty-seven, as she writes to The Herald,
one foot in the grave and the other on ice,
Mrs. Chattie Songer Hart longs for a bureau
of mothers empowered to scour the screen
clean of human skin and other vulgarities.
I can imagine her horrified by Reality TV
or by Anglina Jolie, the bulging lips, the vial
of Billy Bob's blood hung between her breasts.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The unintended consequence of piety is often
the most severe. Had Mrs. Hart's campaign
rained down a generation ago, American boys
would have been deprived of the primary joys
of the Winter Olympics. I have not forgotten
the yearnings conjured in black and white,
Peggy Fleming failing to medal in Innsbruck,
kissing gold in Grenoble in the year
when figure skating trounced baseball
as Barnwell's favorite pastime, when the double
axel consigned the home run to tedium.
As we lay on the rug in '68, chins cupped
in our palms and watching Peggy skate
the figure eights, our limits seemed to stretch
as if the town itself exhaled.
Our imaginations leapt as she leapt.
We felt the honed blade of desire
and began to imagine elsewhere.
Eric with Spike the Rooster 2001
After the photograph by Shelby Lee Adams
There is no ease between this boy,
this bird, no languid pose behind
the house peeling its way to soil.
Waiting for the sun to strut
from the coop-gray cloud and feather
the afternoon with heat, for shadows
to arc beneath the nails fastening paint
to the baked oak planks, Eric clasps
the rooster to his waist with the crook
of his arm, holds his antagonist close.
Its wattle and comb bloom dark
on the thick white stem of its neck.
From the feet, talons jut like blades.
Eric clamps the hocks with one hand,
with the other slants the shanks away
from his thigh. He knows Spike's
abiding rage, knows the hostage,
bitter and wild, will rake its spurs
across his groin unless its legs
are bound or unless it is freed.
Philip Belcher has had poems and critical prose in a variety of journals, including Fugue, Shenandoah, and The Southeast Review. He is an Advisory and Contributing Editor for Shenandoah.