Friday, July 5, 2013

Tampax tales

Tampax for me was always something
tucked into a paper bag my mother folded
and slid into in my pants pocket, early nineteen sixties, and said -

“give this to the cashier sweetheart,
and tell them to read the note inside,
but don’t look at it yourself, and don’t open the bag once they’ve filled it for you”

I don’t know if my mother ever figured out
that I can’t keep secrets
and when someone tells me not to do something I just do it

it was a short walk from our house to the strip mall
by the bowling alley and the barber shop to the Pharmacy
and those hot Italian barbers, the Adamo brothers

with the beautiful hairy necks that were sometimes shaven
clean when I went for a haircut as a child
and sometimes rippled with feathery waves of thin heavenly grasses

over the edge of their white barber collars
like slender black reeds on taut marshy seas of flesh
like an acre of night in the eyes of a curious child exploring heaven’s cellar

against dew dark skin
sweet swarthy sexy haiku
braying boyish lust

hushed by my timid manner
I saw their necks like I saw Tampax
sites of desire I didn’t understand yet lurking in secret spaces I was trusted with

so they would cut my hair
and sit me high on a flat bottomed wooden hobby horse that didn’t rock
to lift my little seven year old frame toward their manly scissors

one day I was sent to get my hair cut
alone and told to fill my mothers secret Tampax order after my haircut was done
Phil Adamo raised me high out of the hobby horse’s saddle

I pulled the money out of my pocket and the folded paper bag
fell on the floor and Phil Adamo bent over and picked it up
and said “what ya got in there little fella?”

I had looked in the bag already
and I had seen the word scribbled on the little square of paper
and I looked at his beautiful neck and felt strong, invincible

and I thought of the strange word Tampax
and I had no idea what I was looking at or what the word meant
it made me think of Ajax

a little town near where I lived
and I knew it was also the name of a cleaning product
named after a Greek hero

so I thought maybe Tampax was Greek too
and I wanted to sound smart and confident in front of that sexy barber
so I said -

“It’s Tampax for my mom
I get it for her all the time
I think it comes from Ajax named after a handsome Greek man”

the three other barbers
and their patrons
all looked up

startled uncomfortable and laughing
was a timid child
blond and small

and no match for all the testosterone
assembled in that barber shop
that day

Phil Adamo, or one of his beautiful brothers,
had always lifted me into that hobbyhorse
but this day was a turning point

I was getting a little big for the lift
 and from that day on he let me get in and out myself
and wasn’t as friendly as he had always been

and my mother noticed he wasn’t as friendly to her too
 and didn’t comment on her nice new hot pant outfits 
like he used to when she first became a widow 

and I grew up fascinated with my mother’s body 
and men’s hairy necks and how sleek and lovely 
they looked when they trimmed that hair

and my father’s hairless chest was always a map of the world for me on Sunday mornings
crawling into bed with my parents and peering over the sleek exposed mounds
of his upper torso enchanted by geography I had yet to navigate and conquer

and the lacy edges of my mother’s night gown
frill and brawn inhabiting my little head, like myth and story
at such a tender age

like Greek Gods and the young men and older women who must have loved them
I think it all just made me want to have sex with men named Ajax
and women with secret folded notes

in barber shops who laughed at childish mythological stories about Tampax
and how my mother bathed me with her
when I was small enough to fit in the same bathtub

and her perfect breasts were like those shaved necks to me
It all just meshed together with thoughts of 
beautiful Italian barbers laughing at me

and growing out of child seats 
but never growing into manhood 
until I was almost middle-aged

forever that little boy
sent on his own at such a tender age
to play with adults

but never given proper instructions
just notes folded into flattened paper bags
and men who would never love me the way I dreamed Greek heroes ought to

sometimes it only gets better
when we unfold those notes ourselves
and refuse to keep secrets

and do what we’re told not to
and learn to love women bathing us like goddesses
half afraid but terribly curious in a Greek tragedy kind of way

of what we might find
In the luscious folded layers
of all these mythological bodies

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