A collection of bittersweet poems which explore the consequences of entering into relationship with a man who refuses to grow-up. Most women have encountered this charming man-child at some time in their lives. They will recognize him immediately in these revealing poetic snapshots full of comedy, tragedy, lust and renunciation.
The Naked Man grew out of an encounter with a fascinating man, who wooed me assiduously for a season or two. I’ve rarely met anyone who so blatantly revealed, without any prompting, so many intimate details of his personal life. The total absence of subterfuge in his revelations, coupled with a blunt statement of what he most desired, made me begin to think of him as The Naked Man. He wanted very much to live a life without pretense or, as he said, a life of total honesty. He consciously embraced the archetype of the Fool as a means to that end. He longed for ‘innocence’ which for him meant the innocence of not knowing – an amoral state in which consequences have no consequence. Of course, invoking archetypes is a dangerous thing – archetypes have no hearts. And innocence is dangerous too- especially as a goal.
Did I mention he was charming, poetic, intelligent, desirable and seductive? Luckily, some wisdom does accrue with age. A lifetime of playing my own kind of fool has taught me a modicum of patience. I’ve learned how to take a breath or two before responding, to ask myself questions about what I really want, to dialog. Tempted towards indiscretion, I began to take notes in the forms of poems.
They began as an exchange of small quips based on our conversations- a kind of literary flirtation. As they accrued, I began to see them as a book. In the nature of things, acquaintance moves toward friendship, flirtation moves towards consummation, but though I grew fond of my Naked Man I began to see his nakedness as a sham- a kind of reverse ’emperor with no clothes’ who pretends to go naked, counting on the startled reaction he provokes to shield him from close scrutiny. His inability to actually engage in any meaningful way precluded intimacy. Instead we continued as two fond, a-mused and a-musing, sparring partners.
It’s an odd thing about writers- we find our muses in the most unexpected places and we are ruthless in our exploitation. Any relationship, emotion or event may become grist for our story mills. Of course, a man is not an archetype- nor is he the role he plays; no matter how desperately he might wish it so. Underneath, lies a complex real human being. I’m culpable with my Naked Man of deliberately choosing to focus on the persona rather than the person. As in any other empirical investigation, there is value to be had in taking things out of context and putting them on the dissecting table or under a microscope, but there’s also a price. “Scientific” detachment can so easily lead to lose of one’s own humanity and humility. Perhaps, redemption lies in creating a portrait in which the reader recognizes not only the ‘other,’ but more importantly, herself.
The best comment I’ve ever received after a reading was when a women told me, “I began by thinking of all the men I’d been with like this, you made me laugh and cry about them, but then I began to see how I had sometimes acted in the same way.”