Issue 14
Marco Polo Avoids a Naked Man
Marco Polo Avoids a Naked Man, by Nora Sturges

“It’s not that I’m Victorian or prudish,
nor that seeing him provokes some longing
for a naturist’s lifestyle, long denied.
I know that nakedness is everywhere–

beyond all lust or gymnophobic fear,
plowed furrows, beasts, bald heads, and more, possess
that beauty which true nudity requires,
unknown to those Victorian or prudish.

That’s why his body haunts me. Flawed, un-furred,
paunchy, ordinary, it’s not one
I’d match to brief encounters on the path
to grocery stores and back: short errands fraught

with dangers underfoot, and worse waist-high–
thorn bushes, sharp sticks, hive-swarms, sudden clamor
of their industry, vaguely Victorian
in their tireless labor. Worse, his gaze

(placid, lobotomized) proves he’s sleepwalking,
neither prudish nor Victorian
but tireless, too, unclad, his last great quest
reduced to one blue bag. Do I look naked,

too, like him?—victory-obsessed, or foolish?”