Lick

red and black melted abstract painting

in high school health class     the week

of sex ed     my teacher     Mrs. Plunk

 

an old white woman     with a bouffant hairstyle

so silver it glowed blue     she put on

 

the projector     a diagram of a penis

chopped in half lengthwise     which made me

 

squirm    my teacher     each time she said

the word penis     she would pause

 

then lick her lips     as if to turn the page

of her mouth     and I and the rest of the class

 

would try not to laugh     and in the hallway

later     my friends and I would mock her

 

saying the word penis     then licking

our own lips     it seemed she had no idea

 

she was doing it     as if the habit was

a reaction to a far-off memory     as if

 

she wasn’t in front of us     any longer

and she was thinking back     thirty years

 

to a French café     to the small chair

she sat in     next to the cobblestone street

 

smoking a cigarette     the chair’s

woven rattan pattern     like the blue

 

of the waiter’s eyes she called over     was she

still there     thinking back to the bulge

 

in his pants     blowing a smoke ring

with the light wind     hoping it would

 

get his attention     was she continents away

from the monotony     of a classroom

 

full of bored sophomores     it’s hard to imagine

her with dark braided hair     so dark

 

it reflected the afternoon light     did she know

how beautiful she was     did he notice her

 

and now     each time she licked her lips

she was traveling back in time     the imagination

 

always better than the real thing    O the gates

of Heaven     one zipper pull away