April 28, 2013 § 3 Comments
Tulips used to be small, elegant flowers. My mother had them in her garden, and I was taught to respect them. I don’t remember what she said, but I got the idea that in the hierarchy of flowers—we also had daffodils and roses, well-spaced in crumbly, rich soil—tulips were king. They were always red.
Now they’re leggy, blooms as big as wine glasses: the wine glasses of today, I mean, the enormous ones you find in fancy restaurants. These wide open flowers, languorous, ripe, with their shiny black stamens, are orange and pink, white, yellow, purple, red, bi-colored. They surround every tree in my neighborhood and occupy big swathes of the parks. Their long stems make me think of climbing trees as a child (while daydreaming about swinging from vines in jungles), and their blossoms make me think of sex.
You, too, I bet. Flowers are sexy. I would like a bed of tulip petals, white and crimson, and the windows wide open, and…
Old women write the best erotica. I say this with no evidence, except that it must be true, or it will be true. I spent puberty with an array of imaginative dirty books, stealing them from bookstores when I was 12 and 13, or borrowing them from my parents’ library: reading stories that are still way beyond the acceptable, even now when BDSM is discussed in women’s magazines as a way of spicing up your sex life. It used to be black lace underwear, whipped cream, oral sex. Now it’s power play, very carefully explained as having nothing to do with real life, male/female relations, social equality, and so forth.
No, sex has always stays tamely in bed, never tags along on the job, on the family visit, on the walk through the park at night. It means nothing but itself. They say it’s useful for making babies. Cosmo has the answers, or your favorite advice columnist.
Who believes that?
Along with the dirty books of my youth—which I no longer own but don’t need to; they’re graven on my gray matter—I have sexy emails from several men (while Charles and I were separated) and, courtesy of She Who Must Not Be Named, forwarded emails from my old lover to my successor, full of desire, detail and lament.
This is just to say
Thank you for the anal sex at Christmas.
It was delicious
And so cold.
(OK, probably not cold.)
I have my library. In my computer, in my head. Aging adults in bondage to love, eating punishment like candy. Charles, who’s a different story, devoted but never abject. The men who speak to me on the streets, which is as far as I go with flirting (a smile, a wish that he, too, have a good day), acknowledgement that desire is always present, that it rises from the earth, flings itself from flowers, sparking wishes that I put into words, here and secretly.
Children feel it, the elderly feel it, neutered cats and dogs feel it, and of all of you, my readers, how many are content?
Life has other things to offer. But it’s a good thing the devil doesn’t ask us for our soul too often. The soul grows back, you know, like a long fall of shining hair. You can sell it again. Who dares?
Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned
with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious
spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees,
your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your
chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your
blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double
sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh,
that second thigh and that left leg.
translated by John Ashbery
Ode to Spring
I can only find words for.
And sometimes I can’t.
Here are these flowers that stand for.
I stand here on the sidewalk.
I can’t stand it, but yes of course I understand it.
Everything has to have meaning.
Things have to stand for something.
I can’t take the time. Even skin-deep is too deep.
I say to the flower stand man:
Beautiful flowers at your flower stand, man.
I’ll take a dozen of the lilies.
I’m standing as it were on my knees
Before a little man up on a raised
Runway altar where his flowers are arrayed
Along the outside of the shop.
I take my flames and pay inside.
I go off and have sexual intercourse.
The woman is the woman I love.
The room displays thirteen lilies.
I stand on the surface.