Julie Rochlin: Male Topography

My father was born
with a tiny extra nipple —
less than one inch areola
with pinpoint-center
that couldn’t rise.
Early Sunday mornings
into his bed, I’d poke it
with the tip of my finger.
A mini-nurturer,
condensed as our weekend visits.
He said he was born with it —
plain-speak masking discomfit.
My fingers mowed the hairs
of his chest, pat his bristly face,
reached to pinch his nose.
I knew as he spoke,
his nasal voice
would bring on laughter.


When I first undressed
my future husband,
I saw the unusual splay
of his chest-hair,
like an aerial view of uneven lake.
I felt the raised pattern
of his birthmark
underneath tufts of hair.
The purple-pink color
bleeding through
like a permanent bruise.
As he recounted children’s cruel tease,
the years he kept his shirt on,
the ways he hid himself,
I kissed away his shyness,
anointing, with lips
and fingertips.
Mapping his topography.

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