Prophylactic Rhapsody

I captured his eyes in produce, of all clichés,
as he puzzled over lemons, his tall shoulders
question marking, but he did smile at me.
And so we meet again at the ninth and tenth
parallels, cash only, ten items or fewer.
I remember how someone once bought me a drink
because I didn't like dogs, so I can't help hopefully
spying on his unloading, two percent milk, grapes,
and there they are, the Trojans in a brown box
and a brave tube of goopy non-oxynol nine.
My heart takes a little humble bow
at how I've been fantasizing through Kroger,
wondering would I see him again
near lightbulbs as I researched socket sizes?
How many single women does it take?
But I'm happy for him. I want to stalk him to the parking lot
to explain how things have improved
since ancient Rome when Soranus of Ephesus,
the great gynecologist of antiquity, wrote forty recipes
of fruit and nut pulps to place with soft wool at the cervical os.
So much progress even by fifteen sixty four,
when Gabriel Fallopius described the linen condom.
In the eighteen hundreds, the vulcanization of rubber,
just a short trip from there to the fat expectant packets
expiring in bedrooms, pockets, and grocery carts,
hiding between respectable pasta boxes.
I want to tell him it's all right, he's not the first
to try to disown the things: the French called them
English capes, the English called them French letters.
And has he ever thought it might be a losing battle?
Realized sperm come two or three c.c.s at a come,
dauntless blind fellows in their glycoprotein helmets?
That's thirty c.c.s to a suburban block.
At twenty million to a cc, six boggling billion
to a small neighborhood. Yes, half are tail-chasers
or simply vibrate in place like Generation X,
but that's still a determined tide.
Oh, the centuries of effort to hold it back,
the magic incantations, trial, error, acid baths,
luck, sheaths of goat gut, extracorporeal spillage.
I want to take my Rosie the Riveter fist
and thwack him between the scapulae:
Stand up straight, man. I shake you by the hand.
Your country thanks you for enlisting.

© 1997 Jessica Manke (bio)


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