by David Francis

The Wild Boy Of Aveyron Reaches Puberty, 1802

At first the doctors thought his sexual organs

abnormally small due to the years of isolation

the boy suffered in the forest, for as everyone

knew, “social development hastens their growth”–

but when he began to stare at girls and touch

his crotch they felt a second look might be in order:

a series of sex experiments would prove whether

homo ferus could fuck on his own or learn

to finger a whore while the scientists watched–

whole groups of them were brought for the savage,

who’d stand gawking in the circle for a while

before lurching toward his favorite, at first

placing her hand on his head while he crouched

and moaned. Gradually in time his technique

evolved: he’d take her to a corner of the room

where again he’d try with his hands, only to fail

in getting her to do what he wanted. For her

it must’ve been equally frustrating: unable

to help him even a little or show him

what he demanded to know about himself–

her instructions were to stand there passively,

submit to his explorations without a word.

The Arousal

Awakened by people fucking below my window,

I get up to look but can’t see them in the shadow

of the building. Listening to their moans I too

become aroused as one of them comes. But then

the lovers leave and despite the silence that returns

I lie with eyes open, unable to sleep.


Next morning I inspect the place

but of the act itself no trace remains,

no condom, no earring, no article

of clothing, not even a hair.

The ground feels bare and cold, identical

to so many other patches of earth,

ordinary lawns, sterile surfaces

where life, if stubbornly present,

holds no evidence of the erotic.

Lament for Roy Sullivan, the “Human Lightning Conductor”

The first time the sky reached down,

you were knocked from your bicycle 

and thrown–hair on fire–into the thorns.

A second bolt singed your skull to the bone.

When a third took your eyebrows away,

you learned to listen to the weather.


Meanwhile, a man must attend to himself, 

set to work. You were a park ranger: 

at least there were black bears to consider.

But deep in the woods the light found you 

a fourth time as if you, not the trees, 

were the highest point around.

Nine strikes you survived before taking a gun 

to your head. Were you tired of the attention,

the way lightning touched you each time

almost intimately, making sure you’d live

to feel it again? Or is the Record Book right

to report you died over an “unrequited love”?


The photo shows you in your prime–

big and bald, eyes dark. Five down, 

four to go: you’re still in uniform, 

working the woods, not yet ready to retire,

poking a finger through the hole in your hat.

© 2005 David Francis

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