From You, I Pilfered

by Wendy A. Gaudin

From you, I pilfered precious time

that you should have been giving to your book

your dissertation on imperialism

and black island people in love with American style

your little piece of genius torn from your back

stored in your laptop like a sculpture

that you rub and shape and try not to ruin,

that you practically make love to, with National Public Radio humming

as the sun lights up Brooklyn every morning;

I’d never seen a bare body as black as yours

fingers, neck, calves as black as yours

scalp as black as yours

I’d never roused skin and muscles as black as yours

nor said goodnight to eyelids as black as yours

so it is no wonder that I and my affected worldliness –

my internationalized hair and nose and lips and eyes

my miscegenated ancestors lined up since the War for Independence –

seem like products of desperate kisses between foreigners,

it is no wonder that I can no longer look at my desk

without seeing you at yours, first thing every morning,

staring at your island opus

as if it were a woman you sought

to hold to your body and save like a snapshot;

how I wish I could set fire to my mind’s eye

rid your impression from this apartment that I’ve borrowed

your height in the corner doorway

your luck opposite the radiator

your melodious talk, mouth filled with food,

how I stood apart from your tropical crowd

of tignoned women with movie accents

and promiscuous men with pearl teeth and orange palms,

how I wanted to fit into your city

of sexy immigrants

who called me “white lady”

and invited me to make love on the cliffs at Haiti,

how I wish time would move quickly

because it seems that I need you.

It is as obvious as your reflection.

Wendy A. Gaudin is an American historian, an essayist, a poet, and a university educator.  She is a descendant of Louisiana Creoles who migrated to California.  Her essay, “Beauty,” won the North American Review’s 2016 Torch Memorial Prize for Creative Nonfiction.  Her most recent publication, “The Women Who Loved Beauty,” was featured in the spring 2017 issue of Puerto Del Sol.