A puff of smoke


He taught Latin at the college
that used us as its town
and pretended to be above such speculation,
but, one night in the diner where she worked,
he told me that if she were Greek
she would have posed for anthems to the moon.

Like most men in the school and town he knew
that on the sultriest summer nights
she stood in the breeze of her open window,
her empty robe draped over a chair,
the mirror reflecting one of her shoulders
through the smoke of her cigarette.

The painter who did the courthouse murals
had seen her too and thought of using
her torso for his figure of "Union,"
as he had used his wife's face for "Industry,"
but feared that someone would recognize her waist
and got his "Union" from an anatomy text.

A carpenter who lives along the river
began carving her face on the figurehead
he was making for some rich man's schooner,
but, when his wife inquired if the face were hers,
he repented and changed the shape of the mouth
and painted the eyes a shade or two less blue.

Published in Canto, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1978

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