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FOR ROBERT LOWELL / Michael Milburn You said history has to live with what was here, but God, I remember you bent down with so much history, the year you came back here to die, and I walked to the ancient cemetery to lie in the sun by Henry James, then rise, a halfbound statue trying to shake off all that stone, and approach the granite hall with its frieze of famous names, where I turned to you and halted on my lines as I watched your eyes and huge head. Boring and sick in class, smoking hungrily, you were unable to learn a name yet dropped names like facts and slouched further in the monogrammed college chair, plagued by eager students. I knew I ought to get a grip on you, call like the boy to Arthur at Camelot, but you were too much Arthur then, Caesar, Napoleon, Lear, no sad boy with parents. One night, as I strolled alone by the river, you passed, returning to your room, trembling and stooped, and I quieted as you unlocked the courtyard gate. Which poem were you returning from? Or did you walk to the bridge, quick with students, some your own, some you, repeating Milton's calm, odd meters like vows? It would have been worth sitting with you, to hear your painful memories, the books you spoke, or simply to look for my own fierce sadness— the bed with its stencilled sheets, desk scattered with papers, or not scattered— but I choose to imagine you, no longer crazy of fierce, waking suddenly 16 ¦ The Missouri Review as tower bells stun the room. I know a quiet place downriver across from the stone stadium. Sometimes, I am so certain of your presence there, lying where the river's curves hide the city completely and the cemetery statues crack, or walking back along the hooded path, called to from the trees— it is comforting sometimes, just to be called to. Is it better now, living in history, pacing borders with the great, or would you rather still be sprinting toward death as if he were someone who knew something fascinating, struck wordless, slowing at the approach. Michael Milburn The Missouri Review · 17 BODIES / Michael Milburn The boy's first shower with men; accustomed only to a half-aware rubbing of his own skin, alone in the tub, he stares at their luggage of fat, calves chafed smooth, their dying hiding balls, these translations of father and grandfather, the way I stare at the senior lineman's arms, hair covering scabs, incorporating long veins. I nudge mine close, envying his mature, fatter wrist, bit of tough pouch under the forearm and more and softer summer hair, and blonder, or when the pianist enters inches from our stage seats, exhibiting a feverish sore on the right temple— the fingers are astonishing, but I stare at the sore, imagine him buffing powder into its valleys, his wife's help. On television, you cannot even see it, and when the receptionist stands to go to lunch, her body blooms about the unexercised parts, her arms are almost hairless, slender, covered to the elbow by billowing sleeves, unlike the woman in the laundromat, lineman forearms grappling with the white mountains of another's wash, her family's wash, her own bulky housepants, beefy since youth, built for use, her back is the bone of the family, but each extreme of upper lip frowns with hair, unmentionable, like the girl who runs at school, who must eat compensatingly, replenishing an ugly body. "What are these?" my first girl asked, placing my hands on both her breasts. "What is this?" I felt a thigh. Seventeen, 18 · The Missouri Review wanting only to be able to say I'd done it, such metaphysics were lost on me, but they mattered when, at six, I learned to catch my mother's nightgown in a certain light and see her breasts—or outgrew innocence, sitting by her as she harnessed and buckled for a party. It is an unbeautiful, flawed thing, our admiration for the body, growing with us, first a curiosity, then dramatic concern, screwing us sooner or later, with its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 16-19
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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