In this poem, Jia Oak Baker examines a certain kind of man.
Story of a Man
It used to be Henry’s morning erection piloted
his body up out of bed and into the shower
where he’d start his daily routine: sixty-dollar
shampoo, black coffee, pin striped suit, wing tip shoes,
and more coffee. But those days are gone.
Now he worries about his weight and the softness
of success that has become a slight cushion around his middle,
around his heart. Up on the 36th floor of the Smith Tower,
he teases the young ladies for eating the morning pastries
about maple bars and doughnut holes. Henry makes sure to let
his eyes linger on their breasts and other body parts. I want them
to feel good about themselves—it’s the least I can do.
On the ferry commute home Henry sees a young girl,
Just a fingerling, he thinks, with low-rise jeans, pink lipstick,
and a tiny, tattooed butterfly on her very flat navel.
He’d like to buy her a drink and engage in some conversation
about the changing weather. He closes his eyes and imagines
her warmth, the angles of her shoulders and hips, and without meaning
to, he drifts off to sleep. The boat rumbles on, just as it does
every evening, past the languid sea lions, past the shipping crates
that line the bay like carcasses, and then into the sound.
When the jolt of the boat marks the end of the journey,
Henry awakens and looks up at the darkening, autumn sky.
He takes a deep breath, turns his coat collar up around his neck,
and shudders at the cold night air.
Editor’s Note: Do yourself a favor and read Jia Oak Baker’s incredible poem “Liberation.”
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