In honor of National Poetry Month, enjoy this Denise Duhamel poem:
Sex was as beautiful as flowers.
The orchid unfolding between his legs,
the baby's breath on his chest,
the blue bells under his arms.
Tea roses on your nightgown,
and, of course, you would have wanted him:
the only boy at camp who didn't vie to tie your underwear to a tree,
who instead folded it neatly and hid it
so you'd later find it under your pillow.
Although he could have, he didn't follow tradition
and read your letters -- he secured them,
along with your diary, between your mattress
and the cot springs. The only boy who gave you privacy.
So you gave him yourself. At sixteen,
you'd collected all the pamphlets. You knew
about the pill, nonoxynol-9 and condoms.
Still, sex was as delicate as flowers.
An infection, like the limp cactus
I watered too much in the glass terrarium
my first boyfriend gave me.
Maybe your sex could not take so much love.
Maybe your sex needed to be diluted
with sketchier pasts, a stronger fear of AIDS,
a few more seeds of mistrust. Or maybe,
more simply, it wasn't your fault. Chlamydia
is easily treated, the doctor assures you
although now your mother must know
and your father, too, with whom you haven't spoken
in months. I stood holding you once
when you were just a baby, your diaper
in the crook of my elbow, and I was counting
the days, longing to be a teenager.
I said I had the back of your head
with my other hand, no problem,
because I really thought I had -- and, besides,
anyone could take care of a little kid.
But when I took my hand away from your neck
just a second, you flipped backwards
like a blossoming bud a movie camera had captured
on high-speed film. Your mother caught you
and held you for the rest of the day.
The doctor says you are not pregnant,
the yellow pollens whirling
outside the girls' tent. The sleeping bags
stacked and rolled up tight
like the whorls of petals, rolled up unfairly tight
and meant only for one.