Like when, seventeen, I’d slide into your Beetle and you’d head
out of town, summer daylight, and parked among the furrows
of some field, you’d reach for the wool blanket. I knew you’d
maneuver then into the cramped quarters between passenger seat
and glove box, blanket over your head and my lap, where you’d
sweat and sweat until I cried out. Or further back, first winter
of our courtship, nearing curfew, when we’d “watched” Predator again
from the Braden’s lovers’ row, you’d slow to a halt at the last stop sign
before my house. I knew we’d linger under the streetlamp’s acid glow,
and you’d ask if I had to go home. Yes, I’d say, I better, soon—but I
knew you wouldn’t hit the gas, not for the longest time, three minutes,
five, and snow falling and the silent streets carless, I’d lift my top,
you’d unzip my jeans and treat the expanse of soft skin between shirt hem
and underwear like sex itself, your worshipful mouth, my whole body lit
from within and without. Or even further back, how I knew by the first
electric touch of our fingers in that dark theater, like a secret handshake—
I know you, I need you, like an exchange of life force between two
aliens from planets never before joined across the cold, airless terror
of space, that it was on, that it was on and on and on, forever.
Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Crowe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
but I remember sitting alone on the brown couch in my grandmother’s living room, couch whose cushion covers were of velvet and the color of dark rust, or dried blood —and sewn by the tailor from up the block, the same one who made me my first light blue suit two years earlier And I sat there running my hands back and forth over the short smooth hairs of the fabric and understanding what touch meant for the first time—not touch, the word, as in don’t touch the hot stove or don’t touch your grandfather’s hats but touch like Tom Jones was singing it right then on the television, with a magic that began in his hips, swiveled the word and pushed it out through his throat into some concert hall somewhere as a two-syllabled sprite, so that women moaned syllables back in return. And I knew I wanted to touch like that because Tom Jones stooped down at the edge of the stage and a woman from the audience in a leopard-print jumpsuit unfurled from her front row seat, walked like a promise of what I couldn’t quite discern up to him and pushed her mouth soft and fast up against his mouth and they both cooed into his microphone mouths still move-moaning together like that for an eternity. And then Tom Jones unlocks his mouth from hers while my breath is still caught in my throat, and moves to the other end of the stage, and squats there, and kisses another woman from the audience in a black jumpsuit, while the first woman looks on, swaying so slightly I almost can’t tell—to the band which is still vamping the chorus line— mesmerized and taut with expectation as I am, palms down on the velvet-haired cushions and Tom pauses, sensing the first woman’s impatient almost-mewling and says Easy Tiger while he moves his mouth against this woman’s, his cheeks working like tiny bellows, before returning to the first one and then the bridge or the chorus or whatever—at that point the song is an afterthought, and I knew there was a mission to be fulfilled—Tom Jones pointed to the women and said touch and the new color TV made everything shimmer with promise so my eight year old body preened and stretched itself against the ecstatic couch and dreamed of what tomorrow could be like if I could make touch mean so many things, if I could make a building or a body coo like this.
the night swoons
to the hip-hop
a young woman’s teeth
about sorrow’s suitcase
and i am learning to hope
like a bird
like an orange
to take flight
into the mouth
of a boy
the trees are prophesying.
the mountains are waiting
for the long trek to the sea
and the sea
like a lover
anticipating the kiss
of three thousand
the night swoons
and the trees
begin their blue-black
in the wind.
From A Jury of Trees (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe and Letras Latinas, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Andrés Montoya. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.
Yes as thievery, except if saved for
a fantasy in which I in a backless
you on a typical balcony
overlooking Vltava, gripping the latticework,
metal, a barrier to leaping
into an esoteric night, fixed and ornate
enough, like my penchant for the infinite
within the singular, encounter you
as tributary, serpentine, the heat of your fingers
on my spine, my head turning
as you bend to catch the yes
I'd held latent, a mine you trigger with
your tongue, neither of us
mean to stop exploding.
Hard to imagine getting anywhere near another semi- nude encounter down this concrete slab of interstate, the two of us all thumbs— white-throated swifts mating mid-flight instead of buckets of crispy wings thrown down hoi polloi— an army of mouths eager to feed left without any lasting sustenance. Best get down on all fours. Ease our noses past rear-end collisions wrapped around guardrails shaking loose their bolts while unseen choirs jacked on airwaves go on preaching loud and clear to every last pair of unrepentant ears—
Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Liu. Used with permission of the author.
First turn to me after a shower, you come inside me sideways as always in the morning you ask me to be on top of you, then we take a nap, we’re late for school you arrive at night inspired and drunk, there is no reason for our clothes we take a bath and lie down facing each other, then later we turn over, finally you come we face each other and talk about childhood as soon as I touch your penis I wind up coming you stop by in the morning to say hello we sit on the bed indian fashion not touching in the middle of the night you come home from a nightclub, we don’t get past the bureau next day it’s the table, and after that the chair because I want so much to sit you down & suck your cock you ask me to hold your wrists, but then when I touch your neck with both my hands you come it’s early morning and you decide to very quietly come on my knee because of the children you’ve been away at school for centuries, your girlfriend has left you, you come four times before morning you tell me you masturbated in the hotel before you came by I don’t believe it, I serve the lentil soup naked I massage your feet to seduce you, you are reluctant, my feet wind up at your neck and ankles you try not to come too quickly also, you dont want to have a baby I stand up from the bath, you say turn around and kiss the backs of my legs and my ass you suck my cunt for a thousand years, you are weary at last I remember my father’s anger and I come you have no patience and come right away I get revenge and won’t let you sleep all night we make out for so long we can’t remember how we wound up hitting our heads against the wall I lie on my stomach, you put one hand under me and one hand over me and that way can love me you appear without notice and with flowers I fall for it and we become missionaries you say you can only fuck me up the ass when you are drunk so we try it sober in a room at the farm we lie together one night, exhausted couplets and don’t make love. does this mean we’ve had enough? watching t.v. we wonder if each other wants to interrupt the plot; later I beg you to read to me like the Chinese we count 81 thrusts then 9 more out loud till we both come I come three times before you do and then it seems you’re mad and never will it’s only fair for a woman to come more think of all the times they didn’t care
From A Bernadette Mayer Reader by Bernadette Mayer, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1968 by Bernadette Mayer. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
“...because in the dying world it was set burning.”
We are not making love but
all night long we hug each other.
Your face under my chin is two brown
thoughts with no right name, but opens to
eyes when my beard is brushing you.
The last line of the album playing
is Joan Armatrading’s existential stuff,
we had fun while it lasted.
You inch your head up toward mine
where your eyes brighten, intense,
as though I were observer and you
a doppled source. In the blue light
in the air we suddenly leave our selves
and watch two salt-starved bodies
lick the sweat from each others’ lips.
When the one mosquito in the night
comes toward our breathing, the pitch
of its buzz turns higher
till it’s fat like this blue room
and burning on both of us;
now it dies like a siren passing
down a street, the color of blood.
I pull the blanket over our heads
about to despair because I think
everything intense is dying, but you,
you, even asleep, hold onto all
you think I am, more than I think,
so intensely you can feel me
hugging back where I have gone.
From Across the Mutual Landscape (Graywolf Press, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Christopher GIlbert. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets with permission of The Permissions Company inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press.
You stand at the counter, pouring boiling water
over the French roast, oily perfume rising in smoke.
And when I enter, you don’t look up.
You’re hurrying to pack your lunch, snapping
the lids on little plastic boxes while you call your mother
to tell her you’ll take her to the doctor.
I can’t see a trace of the little slice of heaven
we slipped into last night—a silk kimono
floating satin ponds and copper koi, stars falling
to the water. Didn’t we shoulder
our way through the cleft in the rock of the everyday
and tear up the grass in the pasture of pleasure?
If the soul isn’t a separate vessel
we carry from form to form,
but more like Aristotle’s breath of life—
the work of the body that keeps it whole—
then last night, darling, our souls were busy.
But this morning it’s like you’re wearing a bad wig,
disguised so I won’t recognize you
or maybe so you won’t know yourself
as that animal burned down
to pure desire. I don’t know
how you do it. I want to throw myself
onto the kitchen tile and bare my throat.
I want to slick back my hair
and tap-dance up the wall. I want to do it all
all over again—dive back into that brawl,
that raw and radiant free-for-all.
But you are scribbling a shopping list
because the kids are coming for the weekend
and you’re going to make your special crab cakes
that have ruined me for all other crab cakes
From Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Bass. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.
In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.
Copyright © 2019 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.