A Call to Arms

By Martin Tucker

Last night I saw a play, “One Arm,”

about a boxer who lost one arm

in an accident and felt castrated

because he could no longer feel

a member of his genre,

even though he could, and did, pose as a stud

in limited American positions.


I caught the Number 6 train this afternoon

and sat between a beautiful woman and handsome man.

The space was narrow, I was tired,

I thought of asking one or the other to move a bit.

I didn’t, because I couldn’t decide who to contact.

I decided to enjoy the division of gender

and wondered again at fantasies of choice.


For how many years I have not crossed boundaries of pleasure

and thought my battles settled into acceptance of place.

Four arms now threatened to disarm me

by calling into struggle four limbs in a carriage.

The girl’s arm was tender and languidly cool,

It smelled of body wash and fine perfume.

The man’s was aggressively warm,

Or was my armor surrendering to lusty sense?


Choice was denied me. Each got off at the next stop.



Martin Tucker co-founded and served as Editor-in-Chief of Confrontation for 42 years until his retirement.  He has published five collections of his poetry, and also several works of literary criticism, among them the widely-praised Literary Exile in the Twentieth Century. His reviews, essays, poetry and fiction have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The Commonweal, Chicago Jewish Forum, West African Review, Research in African Literatures, Boulevard, Epoch and elsewhere.  He served for 23 years on the Executive Board of PEN American Center and for two terms on the Governing Board of Poetry Society of America.

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