Kate Bernadette Benedict
Glimpses of the Body in a Modest Household

I followed my daddy
to the bathroom
and what I saw
so thrilled me
I ran out proclaiming
the good news
to a roomful
of aunts and uncles,
all smiling.

Glee! There
behind the bedroom door—
my mommy with no clothes:
a great tall precipice
of flecked skin gleaming.
O come here, daddy,
I cried, I have
such a surprise for you!

And he let me tug him
towards her
and there was laughter
and no shame.

Shame came later.
I grew older
and the grownups hid
and I too was grateful
for long robes,
striped pajamas,
the purdah of Turkish towels
after a bath.

Glimpses of the body
became a worry.
At summer tables,
the rolls of flesh
my shirtless father flaunted
overawed me.
If I came upon mother
unhooking her bra,
I ran from the room,
stalked by the specter
of her long, low breasts.
And when one day
she came upon me
as I dressed for school,
I clutched the quilt
to my skinny chest
and screeched:
Go away, get out!
Isn't there any privacy
in this house?

And, Love, I am still
a modest person.
That's me at the beach,
camouflaged in cover-ups of terry.
That's me at the gym,
disrobing behind a toilet stall.
Yet always I allow
your thirsty gaze its fill
and when you walk around
half-clothed, I peep—
and want to see.
What is this sweet delight
that keeps upleaping
from the days of innocence,
from what unpollutable
secret spring?
Feel it now.
Aren't we blessed?
Such ecstasy!
Who do we thank
for this unasked-for gift,
this enchantment
in which our marriage moors,
this glee?