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This poem is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

Jeune Homme Nu Paul Wilkins


Painted in the kingdom of Louis-Philippe,
posed, or brought from how far back
in the memory of Hippolyte Flandrin,

he is naked, by a dark sea.
On a rock or at a cliff-edge (beyond him, the horizon
gives us little clue), he sits at evening or below a gathering storm,

his brow resting forward on his knees, forearms crossed
lightly round his shins, beneath those perfect
imagined buttocks a crumpled length of deep-green silk.

We are invited to admire the arc of his spine,
his thighs (especially), that slim right arm,
even the creased skin behind his ankles,

his slightly rippled stomach.
And there is the tiny tumulus of his uppermost vertebra, that almost
only the touch of your fingers could disclose;

there is (especially) the smoothness of every inch of him,

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