The History of Silk

In seventh grade, when we were alone for
An afternoon, no chance of being caught,
Silk was what we sought in our sisters’ rooms.
It was enough to hold silk and name girls
Who were slipping off the slick things we touched:
Pajamas, panties, lace-trimmed slips with straps
Designed to be nudged by passionate hands.
Three or four together in those bedrooms,
We turned alike, drawing silk things over
Our skin like fingertips, lifting our shirts,
Opening our pants in dark unisons
Of desire that made us refold those things
Exactly, replacing them in order
Until the afternoon one of us slid
That silk over his head to bring himself
Closer to pleasure, and he did, though none
Of us would touch or talk to him, the words
For his transformed body disappearing
Like faith long before any of us knew
The quiet history of silk, the way
Taming turned the silkworms from tan to white.
The way, defenseless, but unharmed, they stopped
Trying to escape. The way, become moths,
They didn’t fly, how they mated and died,
Without once opening their damp, pale wings.

from Standing around the Heart. The University of Arkansas Press 2005.