Category Archives: literary love

A poem for your thoughts

Hey guys, remember me?  I missed you.  Thanks for indulging me in a week-long (fine, week-and-a-half-long) break while I, you know, graduated from college.  It’s lovely to see that many of you continued to check in every day!

I guess I’m a real adult now, and I feel a little unmoored.  Happy to move to a city, to buy a bunch of Ikea furniture for my new digs, to date guys who don’t look and act like they’re 16. Apprehensive to leave this stage of life behind.  Here’s a poem I love by Kim Addonizio from the September/October 2011 issue of The American Poetry Review that’s just as simultaneously mature/childish/irreverent as I feel.  It’s a pretty excellent anthem for anyone who’s currently single.

Penis Blues
I miss the penis.
I feel like a word with no vowels;
no one wants to pronounce me.
Woke up this morning,
looked around for my penis.
J’ai été dévasté;
Le zizi, Je ne pouvais pas le trouver.
I would like to order a penis, please,
with dressing on the side.
This soup could use a dash of penis.
Señor Plátano: ¿dónde estás?
Mr. Defile Me, where you at?
There’s something lacking in the décor:
an artfully placed penis.
There used to be one, right over there.
Reading the paper, using a drill gun,
leaving socks on the floor.
Now there’s a hole in my heart,
penis-sized.  Ohhhhh prostate
baby you up and gone.
Those old seminal vesicles done rambled on.
Corpus cavernosum,
A penis has taken flight.
Probably gonna fly all night.
There’s a flock of penises headed south.
Their cries recede over the distant car dealerships.
Over the darkened pleather interiors
and the stoned janitor
sloshing his mop
in a bucket of dirty water.


To Bill, with love

As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently completing my undergraduate thesis.  Like a good English major, I’m writing about The Sound and the Fury: memory, motherhood, modernity, and all those other words that begin with “m.”  My (unfortunately desolate) dating life cowers before the long-term, tumultuous passion of my relationship with William Faulkner, with whom I’ve been going steady for the last eleven months.  Yes, things are getting pretty serious between old Bill and I—I’m a little unsure as to what I’ll do when our time together is up in a few weeks.  (Probably spend a lot of time at the bar, let’s be real.)


Anyway, as I’ve been working on my final revisions, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and love—specifically how they are pages out of the same book.  (Heh heh.)  I was only partly joking when I compared my project to a relationship, because it has followed the same basic trajectory as any love affair I would have with a real dude instead of a dead alcoholic author.

Courtship: It all began with a crush.  I admired Faulkner’s novels, his way with words.  I wanted to get to know him better, so I gathered up the courage to write a paper about him during the spring of my sophomore year.  We immediately took to each other, spending long hours in the library gazing at one another until the essay was done.  But then it was time for summer break, and things wouldn’t get serious between us for another year.

Honeymoon Stage: When we decided to see each other exclusively—I vowed that he would be the only writer I would think about for an entire academic year—I experienced a period of elation.  He could do no wrong in my eyes.  His quirks—those long, indecipherable sentences—were adorable, and the times he confused me elicited only laughter.  I started wondering if I should get a Master’s in Literature so that we could be together forever.

Our First Fight: As time went on, though, I realized that that wasn’t what I wanted at all.  This was strictly a senior year fling.  Faulkner’s long sentences were actually pretty freakin’ annoying.  Why couldn’t he just give me the answer I needed?  We went on a break over my winter vacation, hardly speaking to one another.

Compromise: Eventually, we learned to strike a balance.  My life just wasn’t the same without him.  I was determined to make things work, even if just until graduation.  I resolved to spend more time with him, and he promised to go a little easier on me.

The Break Up: It hasn’t happened yet, but soon I’ll turn in my thesis, defend it, and be done.  I’ll miss staying up late at night with him, doing close readings together, all those times in the library.  Yet even though things are going to change, I know I’ll always remember our time together.  For a while I’ll look blankly at my notes and wonder where to go from here.  But somehow, in time, I’ll move on.

See what I mean?  Writing this paper = love.  There you have it.  Clearly I am just a liiiittle overworked.

He's a total hunk, right?


In honor of the life of such an important poet, here’s my favorite of Adrienne Rich’s many poems. Those last lines are a good mantra for any single lady (or gentleman, for that matter!), I think.


My body opens over San Francisco like the day-
light raining down          each pore crying the change of light
I am not with her          I have been waking off and on
all night to that pain          not simply absence but
the presence of the past          destructive
to living here and now                      Yet if I could instruct
myself, if we could learn to learn from pain
even as it grasps us          if the mind, the mind that lives
in this body could refuse          to let itself be crushed
in that grasp          it would loosen          Pain would have to stand
off from me and listen          its dark breath still on me
but the mind could begin to speak to pain
and pain would have to answer:
We are older now
we have met before          these are my hands before your eyes
my figure blotting out          all that is not mine
I am the pain of division          creator of divisions
it is I who blot your lover from you
and not the time-zones or the miles
It is not separation calls me forth          but I
who am separation          And remember
I have no existence          apart from you

I believe I am choosing something now
not to suffer uselessly          yet still to feel
Does the infant memorize the body of the mother
and create her in absence?          or simply cry
primordial loneliness?          does the bed of the stream
once diverted          mourning          remember the wetness?
But we, we live so much in these
configurations of the past          I choose
to separate her          from my past we have not shared
I choose not to suffer uselessly
to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me
flashing its bleak torch in my eyes          blotting out
her particular being          the details of her love
I will not be divided          from her or from myself
by myths of separation
while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me
than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning          on these hills

The world tells me I am its creature
I am raked by eyes          brushed by hands
I want to crawl into her for refuge          lay my head
in the space          between her breast and shoulder
abnegating power for love
as women have done          or hiding
from power in her love          like a man
I refuse these givens          the splitting
between love and action          I am choosing
not to suffer uselessly          and not to use her
I choose to love          this time          for once
with all my intelligence.

—Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

Yellow Rose

As per request, here is the poem I mentioned in Monday’s post.  I don’t know what made it come into my head at that party; I heard the author read it live when I was 17 and have liked it ever since, even though it’s a little weird…to say the least.  Enjoy!


Yellow Rose

When it snows I get a boner.
Whenever those tornadoes on the news
lay those colonies of mobile
homes to waste
I get a boner.  Drought.  Fruit wizens.
Bushes shrivel.  Lawns
Boner.  Wherever I encounter
the presence or the absence of a woman
or apprehend the field and silhouette
of her smell, when one pronounces
or foliage, or cream, or barge,
or if I dream one does
a boner’s got.  If lightning sizzles in the clouds
above the steeple of
a Catholic cathedral
and the thunderclap batters the bells…
on the bus, overhearing garbled rap
pump out of a
white dude’s iPod
and being able to recognize the rapper
by the beat alone,
or not at all,
but getting a boner.  The way the sun came through
the window prismatized
by smears of grease, bonfiring
the winter afternoon—
shook the memory of snot like glue
on an otherwise beautiful
woman’s lip
loose—how old
are you?
When will anything change,
if ever?
And at what age
do normal men mature?
I wonder this and get a boner…
yet there are still some things
that do not give me a boner:
the level of tranquility
a Jeep of body bags achieves
jostling off along a twisting gravel
bound for home, the bracing red and white
of flags, crisply creased,
handed over.
Faces ceasing to exist
the moment they come into being
while a bomb is blowing up
their neighborhood, people being
shot like dogs
like they’re nothing, nothing slumping
on the ground, nothing blood
is just a pool around.  War
in general, and in particular
the current one.
I am against the current war the most
because while it unfolds, I live
and love,
I suppose.  But who could possibly care
what I have to say about this war?
I could say anything here,
it wouldn’t matter.  I could say,
“I am Motortrend Car of the Year.”
“You are the yellow rose
corkscrewing out of the slippery rocks
that gird the river of black water.”
“I have seen a thousand moons
wax and wane to completion
since we last touched.”

—Mark Leidner, The Iowa Review (Volume 39, Number 1: Spring 2009)

Louise Rennison gets it right

Growing up, I was obsessed with Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging series.  What twelve year old girl could be immune to books written in hilarious and probably made-up British slang with titles like On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God and Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas (nunga-nungas being breasts, of course, because of the sound they make when someone gropes them and then lets them go).

I was captivated by Georgia Nicholson’s witty confessions, and gratified to meet a character whose over-the-top boy craziness matched my own.  Though she never managed to pluck her eyebrows quite right or act cool when the dreamy Robbie sang her his original ballads, her perseverance was admirable.  And would she ever realize that she and Dave The Laugh were meant to be?  I was hooked.



Ten years later, I have to admit that I still find these books highly entertaining.  What’s more, they provide terminology that’s as applicable to the romantic rambles of a pre-professional as it is to a pre-teen.  Take Rennison’s delineation of horniness, for example.  If you thought that “horny” only had one standard definition, my you were wrong.  There’s the Particular Horn, when you have only one paramour, the General Horn when you’re crushing on several people, and the Cosmic Horn when you’re hot for everything that moves beneath the sun.

What’ll it be, folks?  For this single future cat lady, the Cosmic Horn comes closest to approximating my horn-status: a few vague interests, but mostly I just want to go on a date with ANYONE who will ask.  (Okay, not ANYONE, but you get my drift.)  It will have to do for now—until, like Georgia, I become the girlfriend of a fab Sex God.

When A Woman Loves A Man

When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, “I’ll never speak to you again,”
she means, “Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.”

He’s supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, “We’re talking about me now,”
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
“Did somebody die?”

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, “Ours is a transitional era,”
“that’s very original of you,” she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It’s fun
What do I owe you?
Let’s start with an apology
Ok, I’m sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying “Laughter.”
It’s a silent picture.
“I’ve been fucked without a kiss,” she says,
“and you can quote me on that,”
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he’s there. He doesn’t complain that
she’s two hours late
and there’s nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She’s like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn’t want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

—David Lehman