A Shirt Loves a Body

Joseph Campana

      From The Book of Life (December 7, 1953)

A shirt loves a body the way
a bracelet kisses a wrist, kisses
the tender flesh stretched over
tendon and vein: a whole world
thrumming just below. Fingers
love motion the way the flesh
loves the deep electrical twitch
of the body involuntary, satisfied
with itself and one at last with
a music that loves to fill a room
the way a piano loves Liberace
and Victor Borge. Chrysler loves
soldiers the way a mother loves
a child, which strangely enough
is not unlike the way Santa Claus
loves toasters, deep fryers, coffee
makers, and electric razors all for
the gift of their shiny utility. Oh,
Pyrex, oh Playtex: contain contain
contain the ease of abundance,
which loves to billow and fill
a house the very way a chimney
loves smoke, the way all conduits
of transport love vicious motion:
the silky burn of a Pall Mall
searing like a car yearns for
one great and final acceleration
that can release only into starry
conflagrations under a watchful
desert sun. The desert loves sun
almost as much as it loves secrets
just as a fugitive loves Texas
and all solitary expanses of
passage unimpeded by custom.
Lovers love love and even more
they love to play dead. Imagine
the world whole and uninterrupted
by a desire for witness, the world
indifferent to all things pertaining,
the lovers now like statues buried
in the desert sand or hidden in
a dark cave that aches for collapse.
Chanel No. 5 loves Chanel No. 5
and wears nothing else to bed.
Naked, at last, it is finally itself
alone, vapors free in the night
air and practically fire now,
loving itself purely, the way
everyone loves useless gifts,
along with all other forms of
generosity indifferent to duty.
Imagine that: someone loved
you enough not to care, the way
a train, uninterested in terminus,
loves the interstitial hum of
tracks. Certain of their own end,
elephants love trains that speed
from darkened tents. Pull back
the flaps if you dare: all those
circles filled with the round “O”s
of faces tormented by wonder,
stretched by their own credulity
until the body becomes a letter
that would tell you precisely how
a body loves if only you could
read it. Slack-jawed, wide-eyed,
open-mouthed: the body one great
aperture. That’s how it loves,
in the manner of the sky that
loves the foolish conveyances
of tiny creatures so ambitious
for transport, and the sky loves
them all, nearly as much as
the shirt, simple covering,
loves the press of flesh beneath
diffident folds, loves the way
fabric caresses a body just as
the eye strokes the camera,
a shoulder cradles a phone,
and the phone tenderly carries
voices gathering a line from
so far away. How could they sound
so close? And it is just this close,
the way a mother cradles the child
she sees she can no longer hold.

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