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These Arms of Mine

                                    David Kirby


            Sometimes interviewers want to know what
dead people I’d like to have dinner with,
                        but my answer to that is nobody;
I mean, I wouldn’t mind following Dante around
            and see who he talks to and where he shops and what

            his writing schedule is, but can you imagine
trying to have a conversation with Dante?
                        Yeah, he wrote the greatest poem ever,
but his world view would be totally different from mine,
            plus his temper was supposed to have been terrible.

            Shakespeare wouldn’t say anything, probably;
he’d be storing up bits for his next play. Whitman
                        would probably talk your head off, and then
you’d be bored and not like his work as much as you
            used to. No, I don’t want to have dinner with anybody.

            But if you’re serious about time travel, I’d like
to go to Jamaica in 1967 and be sitting at a table
                        and drinking a Red Stripe in the after-hours club
where Bob Marley is playing, and Otis Redding,
            who is touring the island, comes in “like a god,”

            according to eyewitness accounts, and Bob Marley
looks up and begins to sing “These Arms of Mine.”
                        Wow. I tell you, I wouldn’t be myself.
I’d be Troilus or Tristan or Lancelot,
            crying my eyes out for Cressida or Isolde

            or Guinevere. She’d be on the battlements
of a castle in Troy or Wales or England,
                        all beautiful and sad-eyed, and I’d be clanking
up a storm as I drop my lance and brush
            my visor back and pound the table with my mailed fist

            while all the rastas look at me and say “I and I a-go
cool out wit’ a spliff, mon!” But my arms
                        are burning, burning from wanting you
and wanting, wanting to hold you because
            I need me somebody, somebody to treat me right,

            oh, I need your woman’s loving arms to hold me tight.
And I . . . I . . . I need . . . I need your . . . I need
                        your tender lips, and if you would let these arms,
if you would let these arms of mine, oh, if you would
            just let them hold you, oh, how grateful I would be.


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