philosophy professor (rewrite)

when he talks to the life insurance agent on the phone,
she questions his propensity for risk:
do you smoke cigarettes? how many drinks
per week? how often do you exercise?

the chalk coated fingers of his left hand start
to finger the toothbrush that lives in the pocket
of his suit jacket.
do you regularly engage in activities like surfing,
downhill skiing, skydiving?
the dark tweed tugged across his shoulders
hides the dampness beneath his arms,
he twists his body as if trying to turn
off a leaky faucet.
would you consider yourself to be a risk taker?
he tugs the neck of his sweater and pulls
at his overgrown eyebrows.

the next day in lecture he tells his students
about his call with the insurance agent.
he dubs himself risk averse, cautious;
he leaves out the unstoppable leaking,
the spasms he feels in his thighs
when he repeats the words sky diving aloud.


(Day 12): Professor

suit jacket pulled across his shoulders every day
since he turned 12, chalk smoothed arms
white against dark tweed, the smell of resale shops.

phone to ear with the life insurance agent,
she questions his propensity for risk taking:
do you regularly engage in activities like
surfing, down hill skiing, skydiving?
the sweat gathers in puddles where skin meets collar,
muscles in his thighs spasm so strongly
he is forced into sitting.

layers to keep out Wisconsin winter, stiff wools
to keep his back straight.
he uses words like emotional-
ly unhealthy and philosopher
and father
to describe his outline on asphalt.

Almost Rape

My professor is standing behind the microphone
reading a poem about a woman he almost raped,
16 years ago with gravely knees, chest slick with rum –
his body has never looked smaller:
shoulders caving toward knock-kneed stance
each vertebrae bending where it shouldn’t
every time he mouths the words,
“Fuck her. Fuck her now.”
He calls the woman he almost raped Lily,
although I know that’s not her name I think
of crushed flower petals on the bottom of the bathtub,
crushed pills rising to meet the blood-brain barrier,
crushed white girls from small, violent towns in Maine.
He says they were standing around her in a circle, shoes
spitting asphalt to fill the holes in her
arms and memory, he will remember them saying
“Do it. C’mon. Fuck her” because she looks small
and pidgeon-toed and can be held down
between tongue and forefinger –
her mouth is white with teeth or foam.