To Reduce Your Likelihood of Seduction by the Boto
Do not swim. Do not swim in moonlight. Do not swim
naked in the moonlight. Do not swim in the floral bikini
you ordered from a catalog. Do not walk too close to a river
or he may have his hand on your ass and call you Sweetheart
before you know it. He wants your legs wrapped around
his waist, though he may settle for you stroking his flippers
and tossing him fish. For now. But do not row your canoe
across the river. Do not row your canoe across the river
without a chaperone. Row your canoe across the river
with a chaperone who’s been seduced before and knows
the warning signs of swooning. Do not fall for his wholesale
sadness. Cut your hair. Change your name. Surround yourself
with cautious parakeets. Do not accept an invitation to dance
from a hatted figure trying to pass for a man. You’re his type
because he’s never seen you before. You must be new to town,
or someone’s wife. Do not sing fado, even under your breath.
Do not recite your soliloquy about your fondness for deviant
romance on the docks. Do not think your fetish for popping
balloons in a tuxedo will turn him off. He’s done stranger things
and with less pleasure. He needs consent at every button, hook,
zipper, and tie, but he has pornographic lips and the patience
of a thousand-year-old myth. Do not imagine his favorite positions.
Do not imagine his favorite positions are the same as yours.
Do not imagine him kissing the downy hairs on your upper lip
and the cysts in your earlobes—he’s imagining it right now.
Do not trust the dark advice of the leash. Even though
you have the upper hand, he’s not allowed to die until
he collects the yeses of every woman in town. Do not leave
your front door open. He prefers to pry up the floorboards
with balloons and bowties in his pockets, quick as an angel
at a virgin’s bedside, the coming so sudden it won’t let go
until it receives your blessing, his release as easy as your Please.
144 The Paris-American
Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press), winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2013 & 2014. She’s received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the King/Chávez/Parks Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts
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