“52” by Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith


Baffled by stark ache and symptom, I get in my bed
beside the bearded charmer who is yet in my bed.

As graying denies and dims me, I vaguely recall
the line of whimpering whiners I’ve let in my bed—

every one of them goofy with love, dazzled by curve
and color, until I screeched, “Oh, just get in my bed!”

The could-be queens, pimpled wordsmiths, thugs and mama’s boys,
porcine professors, all casting their nets in my bed.

Valiantly, they strained to woo with verse, acrobatics.
One fool dared a pirouette, on a bet, in my bed!

(We dated for months.) But like the rest, he finally
did things I would much rather forget. In my bed!

So, all that leads to this. Me, a slow, half-century
woman, turning toward he who conjures sweat in my bed.

“Patricia,” he whispers, stroking me young, unnaming
the men. Then my husband turns the world wet in my bed.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Tribute to African American Poets


Patricia Smith: “‘52’ was penned mid-way through my 52nd year, when—while feeling pretty damned good about how energized and vigorous I felt and how well my creative life was going—I discovered that my nether-regions had been overrun by gray pubic hairs. That was not a happy moment. You can’t exactly pluck those babies. I wanted to write a poem that made me feel sexy, despite—well, despite. At the same time, I had become enamored of the ghazal, an ancient Persian poetic form, and the two—topic and structure—felt perfect for one another.” (website)

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