The Shoulders of Women

Bored by the featureless speeches at the fundraising dinner,
I scan the hotel ballroom for something to look at
and discover (thank God for sleeveless dresses!)
the shoulders of women, pale moons aglow
above the linen-covered tables. Smooth and rounded
like the neighboring breasts, they are less obvious
and more complex, their inner mechanism
of muscle, tendon, cartilage, and bone
giving detail and highlights to their contours,
making more exquisite the way the skin
is pulled taut across the clavicle’s diagonal ridge
then dips into that shallow well above it,
the way it curves down, then up again unseen
into the nether hollow of the underarm,
that tender pocket, the shoulder’s hidden nest.
The speaker patters on about how there has never
been a more important time than now, and I
have to agree, because when will I ever see
a collection of shoulders as marvelous as this?
I feel blessed to have been let in on this
open secret: all over the room, women revealing
the rounded upper corners of their nakedness.
And when the speeches finally end, I applaud
not for what was said, but for these women,
for the shoulders they have so generously given.


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