Posing Nude


after Living Room by Deana Lawson

If I were to choose a man to pose nude
with, it would be the ex whose hand
in mine, I couldn’t distinguish
from my own—just as, studying
this photograph, it’s hard to tell
the male’s fingers, pressed
into a triangle, from the female’s,
decorated by acrylic nails so long
they curve like a penis might.

This particular ex anticipated
my needs like a photographer considers
sources of light. He’d wrap me in a blanket
before opening the window
to smoke a cigarette. We gazed at each other
from a certain distance.
In choosing him, I choose
the feeling of waiting naked
beneath the throw, wanting nothing
but the last dashed ember—and next
his mouth sucking
my earlobes and neck.

In Living Room, the couple stares
at the camera. The male figure bares
a tattooed chest, cuffed jeans,
and Timberlands. Behind him, a woman
is propped on the radiator. Leaning back,
he rests on her right breast.

I know the composition is staged—
down to the cast-off shoes, askew
on the floor. A photograph tells truths
and lies. The couple pictured are not
lovers. Lawson asked the female subject
who she’d feel most comfortable
posing nude with: she chose a friend.

Years ago, my ex sent me nude photos.
At the time, he was living
with the woman he would later
marry. His face remains just
outside the frame. The subject
of the email read, ‘‘For Your Eyes Only.’’

In the only photograph of us I’ve kept,
I’m wearing a necklace whose clasp
will soon break. Tenderness closes
my eyes into lines. He stares at me
instead of the camera; his face breaks
into laughter. That night in bed,
after the picture was taken, a mosquito
worried past his ears. My mouth rested
on his chest. He woke bitten and swollen.