Kunthia and Rhosonny
Her upper east side accent, regal bearing, direct gaze,
Rich black clothes and hair, dark eyes, pale skin sophistication
Intent on German culture, professed sexual freedom,
New York street junkie credentials, having kicked the needle,
And her habit of brushing her breasts lightly against him
When they met caused him to say, “I want to make love with you.”
Remaining very cool she cood, “Why, thank you. I’d like that —
In fact, so much I’d like to get to know you better first.”
She was in love with a man who was in love with a man
Who was in love with Rhosonny, who wanted without love.
She intimidated him with her selfpossessiveness,
Broader sexual experience, and age. She was his
Ever closer acquaintance whom he didn’t trust, his friend
In a superficial way, with whom he spent more and more
Time, mostly in coffee shops or walking around the East
Village but also in his tiny apartment. Not once
Did they hold hands, hug, touch, or kiss though they sat silently
Together sometimes and looked at each other. He only
Repeated his offer three times, weeks apart. She answered,
“Oh, we will. But not today.” He lost interest in her sexually
But enjoyed her electric company, intensity
Shared, which others commented on frequently, “Kunthia
And you have a strange thing for each other” or “I’m afraid
Of her. You’d better watch out with her” or “she really
Has a thing for you” or “Are you in love with Kunthia?”
Aside from a few gay men who liked rough trade, Rhosonny
Knew no-one in New York City. Kunthia was the first
Woman he got to know there though he’d had sex with others.
They were drinking coffee together in a bagel shop.
“I want to take you up on your offer,” voice a cool breeze
She focused both eyes on his one, “come to my apartment.”
They walked in silence up 7th Avenue to her place.
In silence they went in, not touching.
She indicated a couch.
“I need a shower”
She returned wrapped in a towel.
“Give me a few more minutes.”
She walked to the kitchen.
She picked up a bottle of water.
She stood behind him where he sat on the couch.
She pressed the bottle of water against his chest.
She rubbed her cheek against his neck.
She kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear,
“I’ll be back when my hair’s dry,”
Rhosonny began to weep
Was it the touch?
Was it the kiss?
Was it the water?
It had been so long
Had been so kind.Mammy holding you the
night a man came to the house
and everyone was excited —
you wanted to know what this
was all about (dad just home
from a tour of duty) and from then on
always just wanting to know
to know if repeatedly throwing a “shockproof”
watch against a brick wall would break it. You
surmised that, if it was shockproof
it wouldn’t break. When it broke,
around the time they killed John Kennedy
with rockets taking off, it was an
abysmal disappointment almost as
deep as when, the house after
the frozen river flooded the previous house,
a rented house with a swinging chair
on the front porch (what were you, 3?)
and you all came home from visiting
Mammy and Pop-pop, the first thing you noticed
was that the porch swing loveseat was gone.
Your father explained that it was owned
by the people who owned the house
and they took it because they decided
that they wanted it.
Imipolex told me that you told
him that from one moment, riding in the
back seat of a station wagon,
passing a train just
off to the left and a
tractor-trailer to the right
on a 2-lane road, you were
transfixed by thoughts
of where the components of the door
came from, how they were made, how
assembled, mined, smelted.
Refineries and factories were
mysterious omphaloi of the country.
You decided that you wanted to know.
But what was it that you wanted to know?
Do you remember?
He also said what it was
morphed decade to decade,
blended with new information
and new needs: to understand,
to directly experience, the lives of
others more and more, from early on
knowing how privileged you were, wanting
to know how those less well placed felt,
to look into the things that
enslave people and also to become free
of those things; to know hopelessness
for the future, to be trapped
in a social stratum, not to know,
not to believe, that there would ever be
an escape — to know it would require
becoming it. Nothing short of that would do.
And nothing short of getting out
of that would do to realize
how to get out of it.
Possibly you simply lacked imagination.
But no, really, it was
a form of imagination, one directed
outward, believing that there’s actually
somewhere to go, something to see
some way to be
that could exceed in beauty
a direct encounter
with your own mind.