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by Shara Lessley

Such sweet nonsense,
                riding the periphery. Billy
Shakespeare (at risk
of offending the court)

                              so toyed
with cadences and speech: Act
               Four, Scene Four of Henry V—
see Pistol’s threat
to “firk” a French lieutenant.

To firk, to fuck, to flirt:
to rap or flick about, seeking
which implies a degree
of proximity,

              though understand
comes from “nter”
not the usual “under” but between
as when caught

               in a hard place,
the novelist agrees not to risk
public scrutiny,
                                substituting F-U-G
for that most primitive
act, to which

upon meeting him at a party
the poet scoffs,

So you’re the man who can’t spell

FUCK! Such restlessness
              comes from need. Such play
in desire. Flirt is a verb,

a state of being; a noun meaning

“stroke of wit”: what are we
in the end, if not

an experimenta man
               who stands, framing the doorway,
mid-attempt to nail

his best friend’s wife? He is
by her pupils, nipples, hips, but

in the smoke-filled margin
of that NY apartment
               pretends to listen as she speaks,
nodding yes, no, yes, yes

notice his half-ambiguous
                quick-step, her intermittent
dash…in what’s unsaid
between them, the talking,
                               and the talking back.


Shara Lessley is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford. Her awards include the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship from Colgate University, the 2006 Discovery/The Nation prize, and the 2007 Moondancer Fellowship from The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow. Shara’s poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, The Southeast Review, The Nation, Blackbird, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. (8/2007)

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