a fable and a joke

2 February 2001

— Elizabeth Riddel

You walked up the stairs ahead of me
and I said ‘Your legs are beautiful!’
In the 1970s it was possible
to acclaim grace in a woman
and your path up that stairwell spanked
deftly as if we were all onstage
and theatre followed us with applause.
I applauded the energy of your passage
and the body’s precision.
There are a few images that hold on
to us — I think of Judith
entirely nude from the warm sea
at Marina di Alberese
invoking Venus and the ideal vase of fullness
in an Italy no doubt littered with lovers
and carcogenic clutter;
I think of the return of long hair in the 60s
and the seductive flick of a young girl’s head
on a bus going through Mosman.
No order in this, only a vividness
more legible than photographs.
You, ahead of me on those Melbourne stairs
in a Motel in Albert Park back in the 1970s
defined grace and decision
and clipped them into me.
Twenty years later, you reminded me of this,
laughing, with the dancing steps still in your eyes.

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