“Poetry Swimsuit Issue” by Charles Greenley

Charles Greenley


Sounds like an unsexy idea at first,
Walt Whitman arching his back with a strategically placed leaf,
or Robert Frost on the road not taken, prancing in a g-string,
but the idea sells itself, handled the right way.

Imagine the typical swimsuit issue fare:
women running on wet sand in bikinis,
topless slovakian blondes self-censoring with their hands,

and if editors can choose women with
hourglass curves and watermelon cleavage
to represent the feminine ideal,

then the poetic version could forsake the big names,
an Olds, a Clifton, or a Dove,
and pick oiled, bronzed poets to help sales.
There must be a twenty-year-old brunette
with Barbie dimensions writing poetry somewhere,
even if it’s a limerick about the Cat in the Hat.

Imagine a poet at the bookstore,
dressed in nothing but anthologies.

Imagine a poet at the library in a two-piece,
holding her book upside down.

Imagine a poet leaning over a typewriter,
her top moist with ink.

And once the pictures are taken,
after the women have selected what poems
appear next to their photo spreads,
once the issue goes to press,

we’ll be able to pinpoint the moment
poetry became cumbersome words
men thumbed past to get back to gawking,
when poetry became popular,
for the same reason most everything else does.

—from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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