Lilith

Perhaps you were determined to beat
every man who haunted you, clear the night

of looming ghosts. Perhaps you desired
only to know what it was to party,
to enjoy the power of your young body,
feel the light of worship on your face.
So at a house in the suburbs you faced
thirty men in button-up shirts, heart beating
as you threw off your dress for the first time, body
frail and wan in the harsh light. That night
ended in no disaster, and you left the party
with a need for a nom de guerre. You desired
something classy. You should call yourself Desire,
I said, which you rejected with a face.
You said you liked Lilith, though at the next party
we found men’s drunken tongues were beaten
by its lisping sounds. They were Teamsters that night,
great hulks, and in play they lifted up your body
as you protested unheard. But your body
was your tool and you learned to use it, the desires
of men slowly acceding to its will. Each night
you learned a little more, how to face
down a troublemaker with a joke, to playfully beat
an unruly father with a riding crop, keep the party
under control with a gesture. Even when the party
turned mean, and a frat boy pressed upon your body
with brute insistence, or a coke dealer beat
upon your fears with an unspoken threat, your desire
for mastery was pure as alabaster, your face
locked in a diamond smile framed by night-
black hair. Still there’s no expressing the nights
we spent that way, the endless parties,
the river of nameless men’s faces,
your bared flesh, the naked voluptuous bodies
swaying and shimmering in a heat wave of desire,
and through it all the city’s electric beat.
And yours was the ivory face of the goddess of night
glimpsed through a party of tortured supplicants beating
themselves from the desire to touch your shining body.

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