ON THE FIRST HOT NIGHT IN MAY
The shirtless guy struts barefoot
ahead of my husband and me,
thumb hooked under the waist of his jeans,
pushing denim down past slender browned hips,
beyond his tan-line to the cleft
between the twin white fists of his ass,
meanders between suburban street
and garden fronds reaching like fingers
eager to touch his moon-etched back.
The perfume of last lilacs turns humid air animal.
He swings, syncopated, turns, head cocked
to acknowledge our gaze, leaps
across the road where evening's black
swallows him whole.
That reminds me, says my husband,
of a night, thirty years ago. Me, Dan,
and two girls named Mary, dared
each other to strip and run
naked into Lake Harriet. One minute,
we were up to our necks in black water,
drunk, laughing, surrounded
by city park trees, a million stars,
the next, we were caught
in the beams of two policemen's flashlights.
Step out of the water, or we'll arrest you.
"But officers, can you turn off the lights?
There are girls here."
As soon as I spoke,
I understood: no arrests,
but the flashlights would stay on.
Alison reads "On The First Hot Night in May":
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Alison confesses: "'On the First Hot Night In May' is my attempt to celebrate summer's awakening in young human bodies, an irresistibly attractive spectacle—even to those who won't admit it."
Guest editor Charles Rammelkamp's ruling: "Alison Morse's 'On The First Hot Night in May' is sexy and transgressive. Set in some northern climate—the upper Midwest, New England—you can feel the pent-up sexual energy after a long, long winter about to burst. The boy who "struts," shirtless, is up to no good, we sense, and it triggers a memory in the narrator's husband, which at first seems fond and innocent but winds up feeling sinister. The leering cops are the criminals. The transgressions are what's innocent."
TalkingImageConnection, a reading series where poets and prose writers respond to visual art in Minneapolis galleries. Her poems have been published in Rhino, Opium Magazine, Natural Bridge and Water~Stone Review among other places. From 2011-13, she was a writer for the Women Peacemakers Program at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in San Diego.