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Time on Water by Robert Gibbons




To the Victors


Three young girls celebrating the last days of summer, boating. They ferry into town to shop. Here they come now up to the second deck. Fourteen-year-old bodies. One, draped in tight black & white fleur-de-lis pants. She walks by, they seem to saunter, she camel hump rump. An obvious leader emerges, coquettish! Benches on deck filled, so this one sits on the stairs, legs together under her skirt, but lifted up in such a way, that when she turns toward the seats filled with stockbrokers every head is aimed at her. She notices. Moves down one step. Then gives in. To temptation. She makes herself ready. To be seen. (In the Durassian sense, se faire voir, in which she compares this act, related to prostitution, to the act of revealing oneself, utterly, through writing.) Pretends distraction opening one of the boxes she bought in town, to show its contents to her friends. Her legs part. Skirt, the one her parents want for her, & she wants out of, above knees, knees open even with their eyes. She knows. There's no real gawking, it's just a deal. Struck. Now the tallest girl knows, & spies on the eyes of the older men, all are older, old in comparison. She whispers. Coquette smiles. Whatever subtlety had transpired is now a full-blown game of seduction. Wide open. White underpants, small silk frills at pubis visible, labial line tugged tight, divided evenly. Both friends in awe of all the attention, & the gall of their leader. She sneaks a peek less often at the audience, because she knows, can feel the eyes, the warmth, her crotch is warming in an avalanche of gaze. (This is not the story of Susanna & the Elders, but am I allowed to imagine, for a moment, the sumptuousness of Tintoretto?) They three giggle. Men are weak. She is winning. They don't know they're being had. From an oblique angle I have no view, a little disappointed, I stare out into the fog in between glances at this match. Afterward, I see them in the parking lot waiting for parents to pick them up, huddled close, they nudge each other, looking back at those disembarking, laugh out loud, & punctuate the others' defeat by pointing fingers. It would be a true victory if they only knew just how ephemeral it is.


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