Maiden of the South Sea

dave harrity




After F.R. Barton


While the social structures of pleasure

are conceptual, a privileged few innately

sense a fancy for nostalgic lust. A photographer

must travel to the unwashed of the world’s edge

to collect images of nubile girls tattooed

above the flexure of the iris down the collar

to the inguinal cusp. But perhaps this is

an acceptable First World compromise.

No one wants naked innocence in his backyard

for the neighbors to see, incomprehensible

discernment of foreign facial vocabulary

that cannot be interpreted with Occidental eyes.

Neither joy nor affection is a bother to ones

who watch from the obscure circumstance

of distance; dead girls & live boys do little

to rouse revulsion.

                                                After his death,

an artistic rival spread a rumor: every Wednesday

he paid a Tamili woman, London born, £12

an hour to say the word paprika without her

night shirt while he touched himself

behind a silk curtain. His ledger confirmed

the charge as “Spice Trade.” At the time,

there were no words in her language for

pornography. Only words about exorcising

tenderness, where—in the revelation

of another’s poverties—nascent suspicion

guaranteed the ingredients of fantasy.



Dave Harrity’s writing has appeared in Verse Daily, Forklift, Ohio, Copper Nickel, Palimpsest, Memorious, The Los Angeles Review, Softblow and elsewhere. His most recent book is Our Father in the Year of the Wolf (Word Farm, 2016). He is a recipient of an Emerging Artist Award and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council.