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Preston Mark Stone

Date of Birth: 1973
Location: Bakersfield, CA
Published in: Agnieszka's Dowry, Sniper Logic, Minerva, Digge's Choice, Stirring V1:E2, V1:E3, etc.


Rummaging through my father's closet,
I found the secret book. I imagine now
that it was bought for the honeymoon,
two awkward bodies, my young parents,
in need of instructions. At age eleven,
though, I was sure the book was meant
for me -- it was full of the answers I longed for,
steady and sure as thirst. I studied the diagrams,
learned simple Latin, learned theory
of other conjugations; the word
"clitoris" wrapped its three long syllables
around my tongue, and pudendum, and mons,
and labia, which I know now to mean "lips,"
though that morning it meant the moon.

Women were the moon then, not in that
saccharine romantic sense, but in that
of a hidden world; they were something
to be viewed at a distance, studied, approached
over time, circled and observed. They had phases
of light and dark, turning towards and away.
They had secret places, craters, pockets. The air
around them was rare, and I found it hard to breathe.
The word "labia" hung on my lips, rich and strange.
I felt wise, lost in contemplation of the body.

A month later, Justin came to my house. In his bookbag
were two magazines, stolen from his father's tool shed.
We hid in my room and pawed over pages, turning
slowly, examining. There were colors and angles
I had never imagined, and they made me afraid.
We looked deep into the spaces and openings
of strange women, our jaws unhinged, eyes glazed
with shock. "Labia majora," I said. Justin
couldn't hear me, his whole mind tangled
in a web of thighs, drowning with knowledge
of the body. We went out of our way not to touch,
tried not to look at one another, tried
not to breathe. I didn't understand what place
we had entered, with its alien features, its desert
of gloss. I only knew we couldn't go back,
couldn't unlearn or unlook. We threw the magazines
away and never spoke of it again, and we became
ordinary men, a little horrified by longing,
rough with our desires, loving with our fingers
and mouths only in secret rooms and hidden places,
only and inescapably in the dark.