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Page 193

It seems selfish to stroke myself, just myself,
when so much lonely skin (pale and bluey-pink
and every shade of gold to dusk to dark -- dance
of the hours) cries out for stroking, for the stoking
of our dying embers. To be stroked by another
includes surprise, the tinge of danger:

Who knows what secret signs will be inscribed
(invisibly, indelibly) on skin by eloquent fingers --
not quite invisible, always that momentary whitening
or graying, that instant when coy blood retreats,
then returns (blushing) for more. One has to learn
speed-reading (where one finger strokes quickly
down the center [I love to stroke, quickly, your downy
center] of each page, a few inches from the spine,
axis of literature and all our tingling nerves) -- one must
speed-read to catch the inscriptions that so quickly vanish
beneath our fingers.

I gave up masturbation years ago, because I could
(just as I started at age 13 to find out if I could)
and because of all that it is not,
and because, having come to think well of myself,
I began to think it a selfish act.
But if, still naked from sleep, I grope for my notebook
(careful not to upset the lamp or sweep pens behind
the bed-table, noticing the thin skin of dust on its surface),
and lie, naked, writing, might I not excite myself,

speaking of the petal-clinging softness of labial skin,
the sleekness of the inner thigh (thy inner thee),
the give and take of breasts -- might I not begin to notice
penis-creep along my own thigh, touch the rascal,
stroke once or twice, just to establish a hand-shake,
remind myself that I am online; the pilot light yet burns,

and perhaps you are here with me. Perhaps I am not
talking only to myself?

Note: Imagery entails dangers and responsibilities.

Stanza 2 refers to the human spine, but also to the spine of a book. One can read a book slowly (the markings don't quickly vanish), but those made by caresses are soon unreadable – hence the speed-reading metaphor. A lover's skin is the latest variant of the blank page. Since "the inner thigh" is pronounced "thee inner thy", it is neatly reversed by "thy inner thee" (though the "th" sound in thigh is not voiced as it is in "thy").

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