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Friday, September 30, 2005


by Rochelle Ratner

Richard holds the black boxers in front of his heavy thighs.
Boxers – is that what they are? They look more like those
tight-fitting long-leg swim trunks men wore in the 1920s,
or a woman's girdle. He can picture Iraqi rebels hooting
over some poor dead body that turns up wearing these
unisex dustcloths. Americans, now, that would be different.
All those men who posed as gay to get out of Vietnam.
Always fitting parts of their bodies into forbidden places.
They seem to have no fear of germs and heat and rashes.
His mother's sister in America always warned him to wear
clean underwear when he came to visit her, so if the plane
crashed they'd know what graveyard to send him to. He
recalls one winter break, visiting her in New York when
the temperature dropped to nearly zero, she held a black
turtleneck thingy out to him, just the turtleneck and a
little fabric, the neck hole maybe a tenth the size of his
head. She said it stretches, and she convinced him to try it,
and it went over his head and really did shut the cold out.
He refused to call it a Dickie, though.

Rochelle Ratner's books include two novels: Bobby's Girl (Coffee House Press, 1986) and The Lion's Share (Coffee House Press, 1991) and sixteen poetry books, including House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003) and Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, October 2005). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage: