there may be nothing more isolating than an intimacy shared

October 18, 2011 § 3 Comments

Dear                     ,

Yes, you are probably right. You wonder if what I’ve written is in fact a poem, and this is perhaps a valid question. While there is surely more to poetry than versification, it remains for me poetry’s most significant distinction. Indeed, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t even recoil at the idea of taking nearly any piece of prose worth its salt & breaking it into verse — presto! poetry! Well, maybe. Some prose works better visually & conceptually broken apart than others. But this is concerned only with whether such prose made poetry “works,” not whether or not it is in fact, nevertheless, poetry, bad as it might be. There are other very important differences, of course, not least being the verbal economy of poetry, where even the most indefinite of articles, and those most superfluous of “that”s, seem to change everything absolutely.

But it is the visual element of language being torn asunder — a visual element made verbal, when done correctly — all those visual pauses, sensory hiccups — this is what most appeals and appalls me concerning poetry. Why, that is, I can only ever flirt with it. A coy kiss on the sly most often, a parenthetical couplet or a hyphenated ejaculation, with only the occasional and most clandestine of full-blown affairs. If I may stick my toe, but only that, slightly deeper into the metaphor: poetry is, for me, more prostitute than mistress. But I like to think I tip well.

That is a good point, yes, re: how the presence of another — particularly during sex — can so often give rise to the realization that one is alone. Is this due, I wonder, to the indistinguishability of “us,” the being so close that even the most individual of fluids, not to mention, yes, breathing, become “ours,” no longer mine? This seems counter-intuitive, but there may be nothing more isolating than an intimacy shared — a profound sundering, not unlike poetry, from the only self, our own, that we thought we could take for granted. The friend who sent to me the photo said that on the print she had purchased there was a line, the specific wording I’ve since forgotten, that went something like: “The last thing I said to you was don’t leave me here.” That was the gist, I believe. Which, as I think about it, doesn’t at all undercut the point you’re making. It could, yes; but it also, in a far more interesting way, could make it more psychologically revealing and/or intense. Not least because it introduces an awareness of time into the very tangible space of the image.

The bruise to which you refer I thought was a birthmark. What’s interesting is that I hadn’t even considered the possibility that it was a bruise, and now that possibility (if not necessity) seems so obvious. What you say, re: the bruise is very much in line with the fairly enigmatic thing I said in the piece, poem or not, about reciprocity. Sensuality, or at least eroticism, if there is a distinction, seems to me defined in some sense by a give-and-take, a participation that blurs those boundaries of ownership of deed & even of body. Some have said that this speaks to the inherent narcissism of all sexual desire — the looking for me in every other, sex as a stand-in for masturbation — and while I’m sympathetic with this idea on some level, because the loneliness of intimacy can at times be quite debilitating, I also think it  risks conceding something important in the process.

Sex as exorcism. Yes yes yes. Who, after all, has not been there? And yet, desire being what it is, it seems either that we tend to do a bad job of this exorcism or there are far too many demons — they are Legion, we’re told — than partners or partnerships.

Yours,

§ 3 Responses to there may be nothing more isolating than an intimacy shared

  • tom altizer says:

    Sex as exorcism? Have we really all been there? And is it possible in our age to write poetry on sex? Is sex not ultimately forbidden for us? I myself have only been able to write about sex in responding to Blake and I do think that he is our only poet who could fully write about sex, and, yes, he could know it as exorcism!

    • Brad Johnson says:

      Well, I meant to say there — who has not been there w/ respect to the attempt at such an exorcism? — a knowing attempt or not. Success in these matters is a very different story. While I’m unsurprised by what you say about Blake and sex, I’m also quite intrigued. What pieces of his in particular do you find most important in this regard?

  • tom clark says:

    Birth and its protracted aftermath, one long series of spiritual hematomas. Only some of them show on the surface. And then there are the really bad kind.

    Whenever I see the world Legion unusually capitalized, I think of that curious demon made of wood (the wood of the holly tree, durable and strong), Gary Cooper (because of that movie Foreign Legion).

    The “sex scenes” in his movies are strangely bruising, like little exorcisms.

    “A great reckoning in a small room” — Touchstone.

    All this does strike home, Brad. Still, down toward stoppage time, I’m like, Please, Lord, anything, deliver me from these Monads.

    “People get together and love one another right now.”

    Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods showed up at my daughter’s woebegone primary school in West Marin in the early 1970s to perform that song for the kids, in a weed-overgrown playing field.

    Much seemed possible. But it was all a dream. Or perhaps I should say “And”, not “But”.

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